Outcomes of unresected ground-glass nodules with cytology suspicious for adenocarcinoma

J Thorac Oncol. 2014 May;9(5):685-91. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0000000000000143.


Background: Five-year survival rates for resected stage I adenocarcinoma approach 100%. Given previous studies describing the prolonged indolent natural history of ground-glass lesions suspicious for early adenocarcinoma, our purpose in this study was to determine if outcomes were different among patients who were observed for radiographic and biopsy suspected early adenocarcinoma compared with those who were resected immediately.

Methods: We identified 63 patients with no prior history of lung adenocarcinoma who had undergone computer tomography-guided fine-needle aspiration of ground-glass opacities with cytology concerning for new early adenocarcinoma between January 2002 and December 2011. We compared the clinical outcomes of patients who were resected after abnormal cytology results and those who opted for watchful waiting.

Results: Sixteen patients elected to observe their ground-glass nodules despite having suspicious cytology results, whereas 47 opted for immediate resection. Of the 16 observed patients, six (37.5%) ultimately demonstrated growth or increase solid component of the ground-glass nodule. Five of these patients elected for definitive therapy by surgical resection or radiation. There were no occurrences of distant metastasis or lung cancer-associated deaths in the observed group. Of the 47 resected patients, two developed metastatic disease, five developed new cancers in remaining lung, and three developed progression in existing ground-glass nodules.

Conclusions: Ground-glass lesions that were observed after biopsy did not demonstrate any increased rates of metastasis or cancer-related deaths and delayed resection does not seem to have a negative effect on outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonectomy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule / diagnostic imaging
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule / pathology*
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule / surgery*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Watchful Waiting

Supplementary concepts

  • Adenocarcinoid tumor