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What is a Pulmonary Lesion?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A pulmonary lesion is an area of abnormal cellular change inside or on the lung. Lesions in the lungs can be caused by a number of things and the discovery of a lesion is only an indicator for further evaluation, not a cause for immediate alarm. After a pulmonary lesion is investigated to learn more about what it is, a doctor can discuss the findings with the patient and develop a treatment plan for the lesion, if necessary.

Lesions on the lungs are sometimes identified during medical imaging studies of the lungs, such as X-rays. They can also be spotted during surgery in the thoracic area, or in endoscopy procedures where a camera is inserted into the body to provide a view of structures normally only visible during surgery. They may be incidental findings discovered while evaluating a patient for another issue, or a doctor may be specifically looking for them on the basis of symptoms being experienced by the patient.

A lesion can indicate an area of inflammation, the development of a cancerous growth, a benign polyp, or any number of other cellular changes. To learn more about a pulmonary lesion, it is usually necessary to take a small sample for biopsy. If possible, a physician may attempt to remove the entire lesion, in case it is malignant. If it is, the patient won't need a second procedure to take the rest of the growth out, as it will have already been removed.

A pathologist can examine the specimen under the microscope and provide more information about it. Results from pathology can vary. Sometimes the sample isn't large enough and the results are inconclusive. In most cases, the pathologist can determine the types of cells involved, study their activity in the lung, and determine if the growth is a cause for concern. Pathology reports for a lesion can take several days to a week, depending on the level of business at a laboratory.

People are at increased risk of developing pulmonary lesions if they have chronic lung disease, are exposed to environmental pollutants, or are smokers. When lesions are identified and do need medical treatment, options can vary. Medications may be used to manage issues like inflammation, while other types of lesions may be malignant, requiring chemotherapy, radiation, or possible surgery. When discussing lesions and treatment options, patients may want to ask about their prognosis with different treatment options as compared to a prognosis without treatment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon966200 — On Aug 18, 2014

How long after a bout of pneumonia or bronchitis can a pulmonary nodule remain in the lungs?

By anon327839 — On Mar 31, 2013

I had flu that went into pneumonia and I am collecting fluid outside my lungs they have drained me three times and I keep filling with fluid and cannot breathe. All tests on fluid has shown negative for malignancy. Why would I continue to fill up within days?

By Donald78 — On Jun 30, 2011

@jdsbjg2009 - A nodule in the lung is usually made up of non-malignant tissue. The exact cause is unknown but it is believed that it can be caused by inflammation in the lungs from an allergy or an infection.

In your case, it sounds like it is possible the nodule was caused by the bronchitis, which is considered an infection.

By Jdsbjg2009 — On Jun 29, 2011

Recently, I had a bad case of bronchitis and my doctor ordered a chest x-ray to make sure I didn't have pneumonia. The x-ray was clear except for a pulmonary nodule.

This is the first time I've heard of anything called pulmonary nodule. I had a lot of coughing, wheezing and mucus with the bronchitis. Is it possible the pulmonary nodule was caused by the bronchitis?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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