Everyone learns early in science class just how important the lungs are. They are necessary to receive oxygen from the air and exchange it with carbon dioxide in the lungs. Without the lungs, there would be a smaller amount of oxygen available for the blood, causing your body to work harder.
There are several diseases that involve the lungs, including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or cancer. Any of these illnesses can wreak havoc on the lungs and interfere with the lung’s functions. We are going to focus on lung cancer.
Cancer can be a debilitating or life-threatening disease anywhere it is located in the body. Cancer of the lungs is one of the most serious diagnoses, as it can spread rapidly to other parts of the body, or to the rest of the lungs. Usually found in the bronchi, it can also begin in the pleura, which is the lining of the sac. As the lungs are exposed to foreign objects, the new cells proliferate and mutate into cancerous tumors. These tumors can be benign or malignant, which spreads throughout the body.
Risk factors that can be changed:
Smoking – Cigarettes, pipes, and cigars cause over 90% of lung cancer cases.
Second hand smoke – Breathing in smoke exhaled by smokers or air tainted by cigarette smoke can be enough to cause cancer.
Respiratory irritants such as asbestos – Fibers can settle in the lungs, and develop into cancer. Smoking increases the risk by up to 90 times.
Radon gas – This gas is sometimes found seeping through rocks and into homes. The gas, once inhaled, causes cancer at a rate second only to cigarette smoke.
Risk factors that can be modified:
Other lung diseases – The presence of illnesses such as COPD can increase the chance of developing lung cancer. Modification involved taking prescribed medications, a diet high in protein, and avoiding respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu.
Risk factors that cannot be changed:
Prior history – If lung cancer develops once, it can come back again, usually in a more aggressive form.
Family history – Genetic factors play a role in who develops lung cancer and who does not. It is common that smoking and nonsmoking family members of a cancer patient can develop the illness themselves even if they avoid common risk factors.
Lung cancer can be aggressive, and can cause death. However, it is possible to seek treatment and eradicate the illness. Know the risk factors, learn the symptoms, and seek medical attention when necessary.