DID YOU KNOW?
- The length of the airway contained inside the human lungs is approximately 2400 kms.
- The lungs have a total surface area of 750 sq. ft. which is the size of one side of a tennis court.
- If all the tube-like structure carrying blood, aka capillaries surrounding the lungs were unwound and laid end to end, they would extend for about 992 kms.
- In spite of weighing about 2.3 kgs (each lung weighing roughly 1.1 kgs), the lungs are the only organ in the human body that can remain afloat on water.
- The above perhaps explains the reason for the origin of the word ‘lung’ which having an Indo-European root means ‘light’.
- The two lungs differ in size. Although the right lung is shorter by 5cms, its volume, total capacity and weight is higher than the left lung. This is so because the left has to accommodate the heart on its side.
- A normal adult breathes 15-25 times per minute in a relaxed state.
- The lungs help us to use about 550 litres of pure oxygen every day. Those among us who exercise obviously use more.
IGNORANCE OR FOOLISHNESS?
Wonder if people would abuse it in spite of knowing what a great job this organ does for the body, by extracting oxygen from the air we breathe in and transporting it to the bloodstream while taking away carbon dioxide when we breathe out. The tragic fact however is that as of 2004, 13 lakh men and women have been dying annually, as a result of lung cancer . Lung cancer also has the dubious distinction of being the number one killer cancer.
Smoking tobacco, especially in the form of cigarettes, is by far the number one culprit. Also, secondhand smoke or smoke inhaled from another's smoking causes lung cancer in non-smokers. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 70% of the lung cancer deaths will occur in developing countries like India by the year 2030, going by the present trend.
Apart from smoking the following may also increase the risk of lung cancer:
- Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. They are -
- Mustard gas
- Nickel chromates
- Vinyl chloride
- Diesel exhausts
- Family history of lung cancer
- High levels of air pollution
- High levels of arsenic in drinking water
- Radiation therapy to the lungs
- Radon gas
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE LUNG CANCER?
There are two main types of lung cancers.
- Small cell lung cancer (SCLC), which accounts for almost 20% of the cancer cases.
- Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which is the most common type of lung cancer.
There are apparently no visible signs or symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer. As the cancer develops you may experience -
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up of blood
- Change in regular coughing pattern
- Chest pain or pain in the abdomen
- Weight loss, fatigue and loss of appetite
- Hoarse voice
- Difficulty in swallowing
CAN I PREVENT IT?
Of course we can prevent it from happening to ourselves or our loved ones. The real question is are we ready to change before a tragedy befalls or do we keep indulging ourselves on the pretext of fun or enjoyment or simple laziness and indifference?
Eliminating tobacco smoke by discouraging people can be the most effective way of overcoming the epidemic. While in most countries industrial carcinogen have been identified and banned, tobacco smoking is still widespread. Most governments around the world have banned tobacco smoke in public places. India introduced a total ban on smoking in public places on October 2, 2008.
Scientific studies have also proved, though not conclusively, that eating vegetables and fruits help in lung cancer protection.
With the advancement of modern technology, the use of medical tests to detect disease in people who do not show any visible signs or symptoms (asymptomatic people) have become very much possible. The possible preventive tests include chest radiograph and CT scan. A CT Scan gives a three dimensional view of the condition of the organ.