As far as the respiratory system is concerned, the lungs are the most important organs in the body. They are responsible for overseeing the exchange of oxygen to the blood stream. That oxygen is then exchanged for waste known as carbon dioxide and is removed from the blood stream through exhalation.
Aside from respiratory function, the lungs also play other vital roles for our health. They protect the heart and serve as a “cushion” to shield it from any abnormal blows, and can even filter out small blood clods that form in the systemic veins.
By the time you’ve reached the age of 25, your lungs will have fully matured. By the age of 35, your lung function can slowly start to decline, which is why it’s so important to take care of your lung health. This includes having regular check-ups with your physician, getting regular exercise, and preventing infection. In order to prevent infection from occurring, make sure you avoid large crowds during cold and flu season, and frequently wash your hands with warm, soapy water. Certain breathing exercises can also improve lunch function.
If you’re a smoker, speak to your doctor about smoking cessation. A physician from Vancouver, Dr. Ali Ghahary, offers tips on smoking cessation here.
Smoking can lead to a wide variety of health problems and lung diseases, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), bronchitis, emphysema, and it can even trigger asthma. Due to cigarette smoke destroying lung tissue, it can also eventually lead to lung cancer, which is one of the most commonly diagnosed types of cancers in Canada today, and is the leading cause of death for both men and women – killing as many as 20,000 Canadians each year.
Unfortunately, many cases of lung cancer oftentimes go undiagnosed until it is in a much later stage. This is due in part to the fact that symptoms will often not be present until the cancer has spread. However, you may still notice symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer. If you have a cough that does not go away, have continuous infections such as pneumonia, have chest pain that worsens when taking deep breaths or laughing, have a hoarse voice, are short of breath or are coughing up blood, it is important that you not ignore these symptoms and see your physician immediately. If you are unable to see your family physician, you may go to Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby where Dr. Ali Ghahary can see patients on a walk-in basis. By detecting lung cancer early, you have a much higher chance of getting effective treatment.
In order to rule out and/or diagnose lung cancer, Dr. Ali Ghahary will ask patients a series of questions about their health – including whether or not you have a history of previous lung disease, what your work environment is like, and whether you’re a smoker (or are ever around secondhand smoke). Dr. Ali Ghahary will then proceed with a physical exam, which includes checking your blood pressure, checking for any swollen lymph nodes, and by listening to your heart and lungs with a stethoscope. To get an accurate picture of your lungs, patients will be referred for medical imaging, such as an X-ray, CT scan or MRI. These photographic images will show any changes to the lungs as well as any tumours, their shape and size, and where they are located. A biopsy may also be ordered; this is done by using a very fine needle to remove tissues or cells to be sent for further testing at a lab.
If you are diagnosed with lung cancer it can be an incredibly overwhelming thing to experience and it is not unusual to go through many different emotions – such as anger, sadness and frustration. A diagnosis as devastating as cancer can lead to changes in mental health, such as depression and anxiety, so it is important to have a good support system around you of friends, family and physicians, and not be afraid to reach out for help and ask any questions that you might need answering.
When a lung cancer diagnosis is confirmed, you will be referred to an oncologist. An oncologist is responsible for the care of patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, and they will be able to further confer with you and your loved ones about your diagnosis, its stage and the prognosis, in addition to discussing the best course of treatment for you. Chemotherapy and radiation are the primary courses of treatment given to those with lung cancer, though the type of chemotherapy that will be given is up to your team of healthcare professionals. Such treatment can often cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and patients will usually be provided medications to help with these symptoms.