Our lungs keep us alive by performing the essential exchange between carbon dioxide (a waste product we produce) and oxygen (a substance that is necessary for practically everything we do). These pyramid-shaped organs come in an asymmetrical pair: our right lung is shorter and wider than the left, which occupies a smaller volume. Our lungs are bordered at their base by our diaphragm, a flat, dome-shaped muscle that separates our abdominal and thoracic cavities. As we breathe, our diaphragm contracts and relaxes. There is a small indentation called the cardiac notch on the surface of our left lung; this creates space for the heart.
The blood that circulates through our lungs is what carries out the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide gases. The pulmonary artery is what carries oxygen-poor blood to our alveoli, tiny air sacs that allow rapid gas exchange.
There are many issues that may develop in our lungs, one of which is, of course, cancer.
Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related deaths among both men and women in the United States; the disease is more lethal than breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancers put together.
The American Cancer Society says that in their lifetimes, men have an approximately 1 in 15 chance of developing lung cancer, and women’s chances are about 1 in 17. The disease’s average age of diagnosis is 70.
Early stage lung cancer is typically asymptomatic, with signs presenting only once the disease has reached an advanced stage. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of lung cancer could include:
- Coughing up blood, even in small amounts
- Shortness of breath
- A new, persistent cough
- Hoarseness of voice
- Bone pain
- Unintentional weight loss
If you are having any of the above symptoms, it’s important to talk to a doctor as soon as possible. That way, you can get a proper diagnostic workup.