Clinician communication with patients may help improve knowledge and reduce distress in some patients with incidental pulmonary nodules, a study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology has shown.1

Because previous research have suggested that the detection of incidental pulmonary nodules can be burdensome for patients, researchers sought to describe knowledge, beliefs, and distress associated with detection and evaluation of a pulmonary nodule, as well as their views on clinical communication.

For the study, researchers administered a cross-sectional survey to 490 adults with an incidental pulmonary nodule. Patients were recruited from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Boston Medical Center, and the Boston Veterans Affairs Healthcare system. Of those, 244 responded to the survey and they had a median nodule size of 7 mm.

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Results showed that 26% of respondents reported clinically significant distress related to their incidental nodule. Researchers found that 78% of patients reported concerns of uncertainty about the nodule’s cause, 72% reported concerns about the possibility of cancer, and 64% were concerned about the potential need for surgery.

The study demonstrated that only 25% of patients accurately estimated their lung cancer risk, and there was no correlation between their perceived risk and their actual risk for cancer (P=.93). This gap in knowledge led to misconceptions about their evaluation.

However, the 23% of respondents who received information on cancer risk from their clinician were more likely to be reassured about their risk than more scared.


1. Freiman MR, Clark JA, Slatore CG, et al. Patients’ knowledge, beliefs, and distress associated with detection and evaluation of incidental pulmonary nodules for cancer: results from a multicenter survey [published online ahead of print March 6, 2016]. J Thorac Oncol. doi:10.1016/j.jtho.2016.01.018.