The Meaning of a Calcified Granuloma in the Lung

A diagnosis like a “calcified granuloma in the lung,” like any diagnosis involving a vital organ like the lungs can be more than a little bit scary.  Part of it is simply that most of us without medical degrees just don’t know what something like a “granuloma” means.  We are thankful that we don’t hear the words we most of fear, “cancer,” but since the doctor still needs to do further tests, we worry.

What is a calcified granuloma?

A calcified granuloma in the lungs or anywhere else is a sign of a type of inflammation to that area.  A granuloma is basically a node of inflammation.  In that way, it resembles a tumor in that it involves a densely packed gathering of tissue.  Sometimes physicians will use the term “granuloma” loosely to indicate any kind of node.  When the physician uses the term in this way, it could mean that he suspects that it could be cancerous but isn’t sure enough to make that diagnosis at this point in time.

However, when a physician uses the term granuloma properly, it means a node that is by definition benign (rather than malignant).  In other words, a granuloma in and of itself is not a dangerous growth.  The more important question is what has caused a calcified granuloma in the lung of a patient?  Although a granuloma is not in and of itself negative, it can be the sign of an underlying disorder and that is why it is important to investigate it further.

What does a granuloma usually signify?

A calcified granuloma in the lung is usually the result of an infection.  Most of these infections come and go without garnering the notice of the carrier.  However, sometimes the infection can be somewhat more serious.  The most common one of these somewhat more serious infections is histoplasmosis.

Histoplasmosis

Histoplasma capsulatum is the fungal virus that causes histoplasmosis in humans.  H. capsulatum is common in several parts of the world where weather conditions allow it to thrive.  It is common in the southern portion of the Mississippi river and in parts of Ohio.  In fact, its association with this area of the United States has earned it the name, Ohio Valley disease.  (“Cave’ disease,” “Darling’s disease,” and “Reticuloendotheliosis” are some of the others.)

When histoplasmosis remains contained to the lungs it usually runs it course with respiratory symptoms similar to flu.  Typically, it takes about two weeks from the time of infection in order for symptoms to manifest. 

More dangerous is when histoplasmosis spreads to other organs like the liver or the retina.  When it does spread, the condition can lead to more extreme symptoms and even, in some rare cases, death.

If there are no symptoms, physicians do not recommend using anti-fungal medications.  If there are symptoms, and especially if histoplasmosis has spread to other organs, then the treating physician will prescribe anti-fungal medications  (sometimes treatment can continue for as much as a year).  Once you have encountered and overcome the disease, you can sometimes develop immunity towards further infections.

Other Diseases

Calcified granuloma of the lung may also be an indication of several other diseases.   Granuloma often occur in berylliosis, blastomycosis, Churg-Strauss syndrome, Crohn’s disease, coccidioidomycosis, cryptococcosis, leprosy, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, and Wegener’s granulamatosis.  Most diseases will not only be accompanied by other symptoms but will often have distinct types of granuloma.  In tuberculosis, for example, granuloma tend to involve higher levels of necrotized (prematurely dead) cells than in other types of diseases involving granuloma.  On the other hand, what make sarcoidosis granuloma unique are the star-shaped patterns they house.

Because of the complications that can develop if these are left untreated, it is important to uncover the cause of your granuloma.