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When to see a pulmonologist


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Hi all. I’m new here and a bit confused about if I should see a pulmonologist or stay with my family doctor. So, awhile ago now, I had a chest x-Ray and was told I had a module and to get another x-Ray in two months. OK, well, I let it go.

Fast forward to now, I had a chest x-day for an unrelated issue in August and was told they found a mass (3.5 cm by 3.something), but not to worry and get another x-Ray. So I did. And then another. I have another appointment scheduled. I haven’t been feeling 100%, sort of under the weather with a dry cough. My family doctor said that was worrisome, but if it didn’t go away in two weeks to come back sooner.

So, I have only shared the news with a few people who all tell me to get to a pulmonologist ASAP. My brother in law is a doctor (pathologist) and he asked me questions about the mass I couldn’t answer (calcification, density, where it was located, who was reading the x-rays, etc.) and he said immediately to see a pulmonologist, that family doctors have a broad base of knowledge but not necessarily deep in every field of medicine.

So, my question for you all is: is my family doctor OK to be dealing with this? Should I see a specialist or hang tight? I guess I shouldn’t feel this way, but isn’t it awkward to tell your doctor, I want to see a specialist? What would a specialist be doing that my family doctor would not? For the record, my brother in law says that any doctor who would mind, isn’t the doctor for you. 

So what say you? Are chest x-rays OK...I’m scheduled for my 4th...

Thanks in advance for any advice!! Have a great day!!





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DEFINITELY see a pulmonologist.  They are the experts at testing for, and imaging, lung nodules.  Your nodule/mass isn't huge, but it's large enough to be a pretty worrisome thing.

You will probably start with a CT scan (much better for imaging nodules), then possibly a PET/CT and/or a biopsy.

Do NOT put this off.  I'd try to get the earliest possible appointment and let them know what your X-rays show. 

ETA: Your brother in law is right.  If your doctor "minds," you need a new one.  And remember, your brother knows a lot about cancer if he's a pathologist.  I'd take his advice on this.

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1 -Chest X-ray and if concerns on the results

2- Ct scan will confirm suspicions

3- DEFINITELY see a pulmonologist

4- Scope is done to sample the suspicions.

5 Plan put in place depending on the results from the scope or maybe further scope if they do not get good sample.


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Hi EssieElle,

Your brother-in-law, LexieCat  and Robert are absolutely right. You need to see a pulmonologist ASAP. Your x-rays have indicated you need further steps to find out something definite. The pulmonologist will undoubtedly order a CT scan, and the info from that will show what the next steps should be. Don't wait! These x-rays have probably told everything they can, which is that you have a nodule and need further and different teating. 

Bridget O

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Ditto all of the above. Would give a lengthy explanation but for difficulty hitting iPhone keys while rockin & rollin onboard a cruise ship. 

Stay the course. 


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Tom, I can't believe you're on here while on a whilst on a cruise! LOL!

EssieElle, I can only agree with everyone above but I do have two cents to add. I believe wholeheartedly that the best place to seek treatment, if it does turn out to be cancer, is to go to a Cancer Center! You go to Joe Schmoes office and your seen alongside the kids with colds and the adults with some other infectious disease and next thing you know your immune system is already down and now you've got a cold to deal with or pneumonia or who-knows-what! Go to a Cancer Center while you're dealing with there is cancer all the doctors deal only with cancer they know cancer inside and out. Now again that's only my opinion in my opinion is worth a lot less than that $0.02 I mentioned earlier! Haha

Seriously, you are getting good answers here. It's a good place for answers and for not feeling alone. It seems like whatever a person has going on, they will find someone here who has been there and done that. 

Take care!



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  • 5 weeks later...

I had a cough and pains in my chest. Went to E.R. and got a call few days later I would be sent for a CTScan . I was which confirmed a nodule in right lung. My doctor contacted a thoracic surgeon who contacted a pulmonary doctor who ordered a respiratory test. After examination by a himself and resident doctor they said they thought it was a carcinoid. They were right. This was confirmed by a needle biopsy. Prior to this the pulmonary doctor had ordered a pet scan. This is in last 2.5 mths. I know I am in Canada but I am questioning very much why you have not been referred to anyone yet. In my opinion yes you really need a pulmonary doctor. 

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Hi all, 

I would agree with all of the above.  I spent an entire summer in and out of the PCP's office being treated for allergies that didn't exist.  If you have a National Cancer Institute available for an evaluation, that's ideal as it will accelerate the diagnostic process.  Most of the diagnostics are all under one roof with results available within days (not wait until next week for an appointment).   

If a National Cancer Institute isn't an option, then yes, the pulmonologist is the right place to be.  The pulmonology team got me pointed in the right direction.  Your primary care doc won't be offended.  Once I had my treatment plan somewhat in order, I changed PCPs and frankly I think she might have been relieved.  She did a great job in facilitating the transfer and care coordination to the new doc. 

Thanks for sharing your story EssieElle!  

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