Our lungs keep us alive. They do this by carrying out the exchange of oxygen–which is necessary for life–with carbon dioxide, a waste product produced by our body. They’re a pair of pyramid-shaped organs that are connected to our windpipe via the right and left bronchi, which function to carry air to and from the lungs. Though our lungs come in a pair, they’re asymmetrical: the right is wider and shorter than the left; the left lung occupies a smaller volume.
The blood that circulates in our lungs is what facilitates the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide gas. Oxygen is required for virtually everything we do, and, as previously mentioned, carbon dioxide is formed as a waste byproduct that we need to get rid of.
As with other organs, cancer can develop in the lungs. Sadly, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both genders. Every year, more individuals die from lung cancer than from breast, prostate, and colon cancers combined. According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both women and men (excluding skin cancer). The best way to improve the likelihood you’ll successfully beat lung cancer is to detect it early.
Your chances of surviving non-small cell lung cancer–its most common iteration–at least five years increase by 54% if you catch the disease before it has metastasized beyond the lungs.
On the other hand, benign lung tumors can also form in the lung. Benign lung tumors aren’t cancerous, and therefore won’t spread to other body parts. They generally grow slowly, but sometimes stop growing or may even shrink. They usually don’t require removal or any sort of treatment, and aren’t life-threatening. While they could grow and press upon neighboring tissue, they won’t invade, eradicate, or replace it.
Benign lung tumors come in a variety of forms, including Papilloma and Hamartoma. If they’re 3 centimeters or smaller, they’re usually referred to as pulmonary nodules instead. They’re referred to as a mass if they’re larger than 3 centimeters.
Pulmonary nodules pop up in about one in every 200 chest X-rays and most chest CTs; 60% or more of those found in X-rays are benign, while 99% of those caught in CTs are benign. In fact, pulmonary nodules are found much more frequently than benign lung tumors and lung cancers.
Benign lung tumors are generally asymptomatic, with over 90% found by chance while someone is receiving a CT scan or X-ray for another purpose. Should symptoms pop up, they may include:
- Lung tissue collapse
- Coughing up blood
- Rattling sounds in the lungs
- Persistent wheezing or coughing
- Shortness of breath
- A higher likelihood of developing pneumonia
Should you present with any of the above symptoms, it’s important to contact your doctor as soon as possible.