Solitary pulmonary nodules or SPN are incidental findings in the lungs. These abnormal growths in the lungs can be benign or malignant. During the early stages of its growth SPN is not traceable. In the immature stage the nodules are less than 1 cm in diameter.
Therefore it is not detected through X-ray in such a stage. In the mature stage these nodules have a diametric range of 1 to 3 cm. Solitary pulmonary nodules are surrounded by normal lung tissues and cannot be connected with any other lung abnormalities such as bean shaped structures found all over the body. Patients affected by SPN do not witness any symptom indicating such developments. It is generally detected by chance through X-ray which may be done for some other reasons. It is not a rare abnormality of the lungs.
Almost 150,000 cases are registered every year. This abnormality may also be detected through CT scans. In most of the case solitary pulmonary nodules are non-cancerous which in medical terms is known as benign. When it is cancerous SPN is termed as malignant. Benign SPNs however can turn cancerous in a later stage. Sometimes cancerous cells from other part of the affected body infiltrate benign SPNs and the outcome can be life threatening. Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer can cure it completely.
Some Causes of Solitary Pulmonary Nodules
There are several causes of SPN. One of the possible causes of SPN is Neoplastic, an abnormal growth in the lungs which may be malignant or benign. Lung cancer is another major cause of SPN. SPN can also be caused by Metastasis. The word Metastasis means “displacement” in Greek. In medical terms it means spread of cancer form one part of the body to another non-adjacent part of the body. It can also be caused by Lymphoma.
It is a type of cancer related with the cells of the immune system. It can be further divided into 35 different types. Different forms of cancer of lymphocytes fall under lymphoma. SPN is also caused by small, slow growing tumors which are known as carcinoid. Carcinoid tumors are rare and slow growing and they are mostly detected in the gastro-intestinal tract. Carcinoid syndrome are detected in 1out of 10 people and is diagnosed only after it has spread to the live or lungs in the form of SPN.
Other Cause of SPN
Hamartoma is another possible cause of SPN. It is a mass of tissues that are normal but are not well organized. In medical science it is defined as a malformation arising out of faulty development in an organ and is made of defective tissue substances that develop and mature at the same pace as normal elements but are not likely to compress its neighboring tissues.
Further Neurofibroma or Blastoma can also cause solitary pulmonary nodule. Blastoma is the cancer of primitive or precursor cells. There are many sub-types of blastoma such as Hepatoblastoma, Medulloblastoma, Nephroblastoma, pancreatoblastoma, Pleuroblastoma and Retinoblastoma. Any of the subtypes can lead to solitary pulmonary nodule. Neurofibroma is a benign tumor composed of nerve cells. It is genetic disorder can be associated with multiple Neurofibromas.
This is however a rare disease and in very rare cases leads to solitary pulmonary nodules in the lungs. Sarcoma is another disease which is a possible cause of SPN. Sarcoma is a type of cancer where the tumor is made up of connective tissues which is usually cancerous. It includes bone tumors, tumors of cartilage and muscles. This disease is known by different names based on the site of occurrence of the disease. Osteosarcoma occurs in the bone, Chondrosarcoma occurs in the cartilage and Liposarcoma arises from fat.
Symptoms and Treatment Of SPN
In most cases no symptoms are found in patients affected by SPN. Usually it is an incidental finding. About 25 to 30 per cent of the lung cancer cases are detected as solitary pulmonary nodules in an X-ray or a CT scan. Doctors consider SPN as potentially cancerous unless proven otherwise. Patients are suggested to communicate clearly and openly with the doctor about the risk factors that may be involved.
Once it has been detected that a patient is suffering from SPN it is very important to differentiate it as benign or malignant. Only then medical initiatives can be taken for treating solitary pulmonary nodule. The risk of malignancy is about 3per cent between the age of 35 and 39 years. The risk factor becomes more at a higher age of 40 to 49 years. Doctors prefer to opt for a surgery when SPN becomes malignant. It is removed surgically either through thoracotomy which is an open lung surgery or a video-aided thoracoscopic surgery. Further, a person detected with SPN should get an X-ray done every 3 months for the first one year and then every 6 months for the following year. After a period of 2 years it may be observed yearly for a period of up to 5 years.
There are certain things that should be strictly followed and few things to be avoided to prevent an SPN formation. Smoking is a major cause of this disease. According to a recent study most of the patients affected by solitary pulmonary nodules are chain-smokers. It is highly advised to avoid smoking. Chain-smokers should get rid of smoking as soon as possible.
In case they find it difficult to quit smoking consult a doctor or undergo rehab programmes to get some benefit. You should also avoid traveling to places affected by Mycosis or to such places where tuberculosis is prevalent. Occupational risk factors may also be involved. If you are engaged in a work where exposure to asbestos, nickel, radon, chromium or vinyl chloride is common, try to take necessary precautions to avoid such exposure.
This is why you must always wear protective gear if you are involved in a job which entails this risk. The above mentioned precautions can prevent a person form solitary pulmonary nodule formation. Once you are affected by SPN formation, complications are innumerable. Therefore it is recommended to follow the precautions strictly.