November is national lung cancer awareness month. Healthy lungs are critical to longevity and high quality of life. In today’s presentation, we will talk about lung health, how to ensure the best health for your lungs, some warning signs to watch for and more. The more you know, the better protected you and your loved ones can be from lung cancer and lung disease!
Why are the lungs important?
The lungs are where you get oxygen into your blood and get rid of carbon dioxide. Oxygen is an essential part of the chemical reaction that creates energy. If you do not have oxygen, your organs (your brain, heart, muscle, etc), cannot create energy and they shut down, almost immediately. Carbon dioxide is a waste product from the creation of energy. Your lungs eliminate carbon dioxide before it can accumulate and harm your body.
What are the most common issues patients suffer from in regards to their lungs?
Asthma, emphysema/COPD, pneumonia, lung cancer and pulmonary edema (water on the lungs) are some common issues that lung doctors will treat in the hospital or in the office.
What are some warning signs that I might have lung cancer? –
A cough that will not go away, bloody mucus, chest pain, hoarseness, weight loss and unusual fatigue are common signs. Lung cancer is often diagnosed late because there are no pain fibers in the lungs. Tumor can grow without the patient feeling any pain or discomfort until the tumor is large enough to affect nearby structures or has traveled to other areas of the body. That is why the symptoms of lung cancer feel like very general symptoms and can be missed.
If I have symptoms, what should I do?
We all have some respiratory symptoms, usually once a year. Most of the time, respiratory symptoms do not last more than a few days. If you have symptoms that will not go away or get worse, talk to your doctor. They may order a chest Xray, a breathing test, an antibiotic, or an inhaler. If there is something of concern on the Xray or you are not getting better, they may refer you see a lung doctor.
Are there specific things that increase my risk of lung disease?
Smoking, secondhand exposure to cigarette smoke, exposure to asbestos and other workplace chemicals, and radon in the home can increase your risk for lung cancer.
Are there specific things I can do to guard against it?
(1)Definitely quit smoking. This is one of the best things for your health – not just your lungs but your health on many levels. (2) Avoid secondhand exposure to cigarette smoke. (3) If you are a smoker or quit in the past 15 years, ask your doctor if a CT scan for early detection of lung cancer is right for you. We offer these once a year to find lung cancer while it’s very small and can be removed. The highest cure rates for lung cancer are when it’s found early. An annual CT scan for smokers has been shown to help people beat lung cancer.
How does exercise play a role in my overall lung health?
Exercise helps your lungs, heart, brain, muscle, every part of your body. It helps prevent injury as we get older, keep our bones strong, reduce the risk of diabetes, and makes our immune system stronger. Exercise is one of the best things we can do to improve our mood! Even just a little bit of regular exercise goes a long way. The best way to exercise is to do it with someone you love!
What is one simple thing I could do to help impact my overall lung health?
Eat well. Food is medicine. We do not know who said it first, but it is as true a statement as you will ever hear. The tiny little expensive pills that we take can make a big difference, but so much begins with the food we eat. Share healthy food with your loved ones and stay active – that is the key to good long-term health.