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Question : There are some abnormalities on my lung. My doctor said it was due to an infection a long time ago. Can this be true?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Mary Pickett, M.D. is an Associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University where she is a primary care doctor for adults. She supervises and educates residents in the field of Internal Medicine, for outpatient and hospital care. She is a Lecturer for Harvard Medical School and a Senior Medical Editor for Harvard Health Publications.

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April 29, 2014
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One of the most common causes of “nodules” or “spots” on a chest x-ray or a CT scan of the lungs is old infection. That is, an infection that happened years or even decades in the past.

It is particularly common to see long-lasting nodules in the lung after a fungal infection. Fungal infections are occasionally dangerous.

But most people who inhale fungal spores do not get significantly ill. The immune system fights this kind of infection by surrounding an individual fiber of fungus with layer upon layer of cells. Eventually this builds up — much like a pearl forms in an oyster—so that it is sizeable enough to be seen on an x-ray. This is sometimes called a “granuloma.”

Of course, not every spot on the lung is from infection. It is also possible that a spot is a lung cancer.

If you have a spot in the lung, the radiologist who reads your x-ray will look for clues that help predict whether or not the spot is from an old infection. A certain pattern of calcium deposits, for example, can sometimes be a clue.  

Unless the radiologist is certain the spot is from an old infection, it may be best to have another scan in 3 to 6 months. Or you and your doctor may even consider a biopsy to be absolutely sure it is not cancer.

 

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