Prevalence of Benign Disease in Patients Undergoing Resection for Suspected Lung Cancer

Michael A. Smith, Richard J. Battafarano, Bryan F. Meyers, Jennifer Bell Zoole, Joel D. Cooper, G. Alexander Patterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Background: In this era of expanded lung cancer screening, accurate differentiation of benign from malignant lesions remains an important problem. We sought to characterize our experience with focal pulmonary lesions suggestive of lung cancer and subsequently proven benign on surgical resection. Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed on 1,560 patients who underwent resection for focal pulmonary lesions at our institution from January 1995 to December 2002. Computed tomography and pathology reports were reviewed for all patients. Fluorine-18-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography studies were performed on 43 patients. Results: Benign processes were found on pathologic examination in 140 patients (9%). Resection was accomplished by thoracotomy in 103 patients (74%), video-assisted thoracoscopy in 36 patients (26%), and sternotomy in 1 patient (0.7%). Seventy patients (50%) underwent mediastinoscopy before resection. There was 1 (0.7%) perioperative death. Pathologic diagnoses from the pulmonary resections revealed granulomatous inflammation in 91 patients (65%), hamartoma in 17 patients (12%), pneumonia or pneumonitis in 14 patients (10%), fibrosis in 5 patients (4%), and other in 13 patients (9%). Fluorine-18-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography imaging suggested malignancy in 22 of 43 patients and benign lesion in 20 of 43 patients (1 study was not interpretable). Thirty-eight patients underwent needle biopsy before surgery. Of these, 29 samples were nondiagnostic, 5 samples were negative, and 4 samples were considered positive for malignancy. Conclusions: Despite thorough clinical assessment, advanced imaging technology, and needle biopsy, many patients continue to undergo surgery for benign disease. Aggressive attempts to diagnose and treat early stage lung cancer must be tempered with this understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1824-1829
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2006


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