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.