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Question : After a routine X-ray, my elderly father's doctor told him he has a calcified granuloma in his lung. He said not to worry. But she ordered another X-ray in three months. I don't want to scare my Dad, but I am worried. What is a calcified granuloma? If it
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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June 19, 2012
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A:

Calcium can be deposited in areas of old inflammation or infection. This can happen in any organ. Because chest X-rays are performed rather frequently, calcium-containing areas are a common finding. And these “spots” stick out on a chest X-ray. Calcium is white and the lungs are normally black.

A calcified granuloma often means there was past exposure to tuberculosis (TB). This is especially true in older people. TB was much more common in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. It does not mean there is active infection. And it does not require treatment.

There are many other possible infections that can later form scars that become calcified. Also traumatic injuries to the lungs and scars from lung surgery can later attract calcium deposits.

A calcified granuloma usually has a specific appearance on a chest X-ray. When radiologists report a finding as a calcified granuloma, they are indicating that this is almost surely benign (not cancerous).

Because of the very rare risk that this may be something else, radiologists often ask for an old chest X-rays to compare against the new one. If you can, get hold of your father’s earlier chest X-ray. If the calcified granuloma is present on the old chest X-ray, then he will not need a repeat X-ray. If you can’t, then repeating an X-ray in three to four months is very reasonable.

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