Jamil Taji, M.D.
Intensive Care (Critical Care), Pulmonology (Lungs)
Speaking of HealthLung cancer hard to catch, early screening helpsNovember 21, 2019
Lung health: Know the fallacies and facts
Healthy lungs are fundamental to your health and well-being. Yet, almost every day, these essential organs are affected by smoking, secondhand smoke and chemical exposure.
Know these facts and fallacies so you can keep breathing easy:
1. Family history factors into the likelihood of developing a respiratory illness.
True. Respiratory illnesses such as asthma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can be genetic. If any of these conditions run in your family history, preventive care and careful monitoring of unusual or recurring health symptoms are important.
2. Acid reflux could be the cause of chronic cough.
True. Many cases of chronic cough stem from gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux. A cough is the initial symptom, leading to heartburn as the condition worsens. Asthma, postnasal drip and tobacco use also cause chronic cough.
You shouldn't ignore a chronic cough. It can interrupt sleep patterns. In more severe cases, it can cause vomiting, lightheadedness and even broken ribs.
3. Radon and respiratory illness are linked.
True. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and the No. 2 cause of lung cancer overall, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It causes roughly 21,000 deaths each year. About 2,900 of these deaths are in people who never smoked.
The first step is to have your basement tested for unhealthy radon levels. If indicated, contact a qualified radon service professional to properly ventilate your home.
4. Smoking won't kill me or anyone else.
False. The Surgeon General's report states that 1 out of every 3 cancer deaths in the U.S. would not occur if no one smoked. Almost 90% of men who died from lung cancer smoked.
The effects on nonsmokers also are significant, with secondhand smoke exposure related to approximately 3,000 adult deaths per year. Nonsmokers have a 20%–30% higher risk of developing lung cancer if exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Pregnant women should be aware that smoking has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight, as well as increased chance of sudden infant death syndrome.
5. The symptoms of lung cancer are obvious.
False. Lung cancer tends to act silently. The tissue that lung cancer affects is on the inside of the lung. Because you only feel pain on the outer part of your lungs, detection can be difficult.
If you experience a chronic cough, persistent chest pain during deep breathing or unexplained weight loss, alert your health care professional about these warning signs.
Approximately 235,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. However only about 29% of Americans know this. Survival rates are improving, but it's important to be aware of the risks and symptoms, and discuss concerns with your health care team.
6. You can take action today to improve your lung health.
True. The best way to fight respiratory illness is by not smoking or quitting smoking immediately. Regular aerobic exercise also can counter breathing issues and make your lungs and breathing muscles stronger. In addition, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein helps fight all types of illness.
Don't ignore symptoms
If you have concerns about respiratory illness, consult with your health care team.
Watch this video explaining lung cancer:
Jamil Taji, M.D., is a pulmonologist in Mankato and New Prague, Minnesota.