Why are lungs important?
Every cell in your body needs oxygen in order to live. When we inhale, our lungs bring in oxygen and other gases. Once in the lungs, oxygen is moved into the bloodstream and carried to every cell. And when we exhale, our lungs get rid of carbon dioxide, which is a waste gas.
Our lungs also bring outside air to proper body temperature and humidity. They protect us from harmful substances by coughing, sneezing, filtering, or swallowing them. And lungs support our sense of smell.
How can you help your lungs stay healthy?
Don’t smoke or vape. Cigarette smoking is the major cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and lung cancer.
Avoid exposure to indoor pollutants and outdoor pollution. Major pollutants are second-hand smoke, chemicals in the home or workplace, and Radon.
Prevent Infection. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, perform good oral hygiene, talk to your healthcare provider to see if flu and/or pneumonia vaccination is appropriate for you, and avoid others as much as possible when you are sick.
Get regular healthcare and exercise. Seeing a healthcare provider routinely can help pick up on changes in your lungs and overall health earlier. And exercise makes your lungs and heart stronger. Talk with your healthcare provider to determine what exercise regimen is appropriate for you.
What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
If you experience any of the following warning signs, make an appointment to discuss them with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. They could be the first signs of lung disease, including COPD, asthma and lung cancer. Early detection could save your life.
Chronic cough is a cough that you have had for eight weeks or longer. This is an important early symptom that something could be wrong. Other symptoms to bring to your healthcare provider are shortness of breath, wheezing, chronic chest pain, coughing up blood, feeling tired all the time and unexplained weight loss.
What is the correlation between smoking and lung cancer?
Cigarette smoking causes about 80-90 percent of the lung cancer deaths in the United States.
The most important step you can take to prevent lung cancer is not start smoking, or to quit if you are a current smoker.
Lung cancer screenings –am I eligible?
About 5 years ago, Medicare approved low-dose CT (LDCT) scans for early detection of lung cancers. Other insurances have followed suit and often cover LDCT as preventative health.
Currently the guidelines for LDCT screenings are:
- Ages 55-77 years old
- Current smoker or quit smoking within the last 15 years
- Thirty pack year (or more) history; pack years are calculated by taking the average number of packs smoked per day and multiplying that by the number of years smoked
- No personal history of lung cancer and are currently healthy enough to undergo treatment/surgery
- You have had a Shared Decision-Making appointment with your healthcare provider to review the risks/benefits of LDCT
We offer LDCT through Mercy Hospital Joplin.
For more information, please discuss with your healthcare provider or call our Lung Navigator – Catrina Gilstrap, RN at 417-556-2714
Resources: Go2foundation.org and Lung.org