Know your lungs

How do my lungs work?

Everyone has two lungs, which are used to bring oxygen into the body. Each of your lungs is divided into smaller sections called lobes. There are three lobes in the right lung and two in the left lung.

Your lungs bring oxygen into your body and pass it into the bloodstream so that it can circulate to every body cell. You breathe in new fresh air which brings oxygen into your body and when you breathe out, you release carbon dioxide.

Each time you breathe in the air flows down through your throat and into your windpipe, or trachea. The trachea divides into two smaller passages called the left and right bronchi. Like branches, the bronchi divide again and again, branching into much smaller tubes called bronchioles. These carry air to millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli, and into the blood. This oxygenated blood is then carried from your lungs to the heart, which pumps the blood throughout the body.

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is a term used to describe a growth of abnormal cells inside the lung. The abnormal cells form a growth, which is described by doctors as a tumour. If the abnormal cells first start growing in the lung, it is called primary lung cancer. Cancer that begins in another part of the body and then spreads to the lungs is known as secondary lung cancer.

What causes lung cancer?

Although around 10-15% of people who are diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked, in the vast majority of cases tobacco smoking is the main cause of someone's lung cancer. There are other risk factors that can increase the lung cancer risk, but this risk is far less than with smoking:

  • Passive smoking.
  • Exposure to asbestos, radon gas and chemicals.
  • Poor diet and lack of exercise.

Is there a cure for lung cancer?

It is possible to be cured of lung cancer. Successful treatment depends on a number of factors, including the following:

  • Where in the lung the tumour is growing.
  • The kind or type of abnormality making the cancer cells.
  • The size of the cancer and how long it has been growing.
  • How fast the cancer is growing and if it has spread to other parts of your body.
  • Physical and emotional fitness.

All of the above will influence the treatment that is recommended. Lung cancer treatments are developing all the time. People may think that surgery is the only effective treatment for lung cancer. This is not always true. A doctor will consider carefully the best treatment for a patient. Both patients and their families should understand and feel comfortable with the treatment that is recommended.

 

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