Driggers, Schultz & Herbst
Attorneys and Counselors

The doctor said it was just a shadow

Many people in Michigan go into the doctor’s office for a chest X-ray only to be told that they have a mysterious “shadow on the lung.” While it may sound a bit ominous, a shadow on the lung is usually nothing to be worried about. A doctor will likely note any abnormality in a chest X-ray just in case it indicates a serious condition.

Common reasons for a shadow

Radiology scans are famously difficult to read, so the appearance of a shadow in a scan is often up to interpretation. The location of body components like blood vessels can sometimes cast a shadow onto the lung that appears in an X-ray. If an individual broke or fractured a rib in the past, a calloused bone could be creating a shadow. Other conditions that may be causing a shadow on the lung include:

  • Hiatal hernia
  • Pneumonia
  • Benign tumors
  • Tuberculosis
  • Collapsed lung

Could it be lung cancer?

Lung cancer is the big fear that pops to many people’s minds when they hear that they have a shadow on the lung. It’s possible that a shadow could be lung cancer, and a doctor will likely try to rule out that possibility. However, it’s important to note that a significant percentage of people with lung cancer are diagnosed with the disease even though their chest X-rays are normal.

Because chest X-rays can be imperfect tools for a lung cancer diagnosis, doctors typically use a number of other tests to confirm their suspicions. A doctor may use a more accurate form of X-ray technology called a CT scan or other imaging techniques like an MRI or a PET scan. A doctor may also decide a patient requires a bronchoscopy or a lung biopsy.

When a diagnosis comes too late

When lung cancer or another serious disease is diagnosed at a late stage, a patient’s chances of recovery are lowered. The news can be even worse when the patient remembers that their doctor had mentioned a shadow on the lung a while back. A doctor who negligently dismissed a shadow on the lung may be liable for medical malpractice.