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Lung diseases

Density in left lung

09/18/1998

Question:

in April, an xray of my lungs showed a small area of density in the left lobe. a CAT scan diagnosis indicated an inflamation. my Dr. said that it could be from bronchitis or some other infection. the density was not there when i had a previous xray in 1995. another xray in May showed the same density, unchanged. what could cause this? would it develop into something serious? in spring of 1996 i slipped and fell on my left shoulder in the bath; could the fall have caused the blemish. although my Dr. seems "cool" about this, i'm worried. could you give me some explanation?

Answer:

Unfortunately, there is simply no good way to give you a meaningful opinion without actually viewing the films. Some generalities about x-rays may be helpful, however. X-ray images are really shadows, and as such x-rays are rarely absolutely diagnostic. However, there are characteristic patterns on x-rays that often are associated with either benign or non-benign conditions. If the x-ray appears more typical of a benign condition (such as inflammation or pneumonia), and in particular if you are at low risk of malignancy (say, a young person who never smoked), your physician may advise you to 'wait-and-see.' On the other hand, if the x-ray looks at all suspicious of a malignancy, or you are at higher risk (say an older person who has smoked most of his/her life), your physician may recommend a more aggressive plan of action. I can only surmise that your physician believes your risk of malignancy is low, and thus the careful observation. If you have doubts, ask your physician for a more detailed explanation. If you still are uneasy with his/her recommendation, perhaps a second opinion is in order. You will need to bring all the imaging studies with you, of course.

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Response by:

Stuart Green, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pathobiology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati