Non-cancerous lung tumours

A non-cancerous (benign) tumour of the lung is a growth that does not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Non-cancerous tumours are usually not life-threatening.

Non-cancerous tumours are usually found during an imaging test that is being done for another reason, such as an x-ray. Non-cancerous tumours and cancerous tumours look very different on test images. Non-cancerous tumours are smaller, have smooth shapes and have more calcium and patterns in them. Cancerous tumours are larger, have irregular shapes and have less calcium and fewer patterns in the tumour.

Most of the time, non-cancerous tumours do not need any treatment, because these tumours grow very slowly, if at all. Your healthcare team may send you for regular imaging tests to watch for any changes to the tumour. If there are changes such as an increase in size, or the tumour starts to cause symptoms, your healthcare team may do a biopsy or offer you surgery to remove the tumour.

In most cases, non-cancerous tumours of the lung don't cause any symptoms. If a non-cancerous tumour does cause symptoms, they may include:

  • coughing or wheezing
  • problems breathing, including shortness of breath
  • having frequent lung infections (pneumonia)

There are several types of non-cancerous lung tumours.

Pulmonary hamartoma

Hamartomas are the most common type of non-cancerous lung tumour. They are made up of cells from the lung lining, fat and cartilage.

Adenoma

The second most common type of non-cancerous lung tumour are adenoma tumours. These tumours start in the gland cells of the lung tissues.

Papilloma

Papilloma is another type of non-cancerous lung tumour. Papilloma tumours start in the epithelial tissues that line the inside of the lungs. They are often found in the upper part of the respiratory tract but can be found in the lung as well.

Other rare non-cancerous tumours

Non-cancerous tumours that are very rare include:

  • myoepithelioma
  • chondroma
  • fibroma
  • inflammatory myofibroblastic tumour
  • perivascular epithelioid cell tumour (PEComa)

Expert review and references

  • Stephen Lam, MD, FRCPC
  • Goldstraw P, Chansky K, Crowley J, et al. The IASLC lung cancer staging project: proposals for the revision of the TNM stage groupings in the forthcoming (eighth) edition of the TNM Classification for Lung Cancer. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2015: 11(1):39–51.
  • Zeybek A, Sarper A, Kalemci S, et al. Benign lung tumors and their association with malignant tumors. Acta Medica Mediterranea. 2013: 29:545–550.
  • Borczuk AC. Benign tumors and tumorlike conditions of the lung. Archives of Pathology Laboratory Medicine. 2008: 132:1133–1148.