I feel that more people are becoming worried about lung cancer these days. I have had students in their 20s come in with chest pain, who were found to have normal lungs, but insisted on a full check up because their uncle died of lung cancer. Of course, lung cancer can cause chest pain. This does not mean that all chest pain is caused by lung cancer. Many patients, on the other hand, can be diagnosed with lung cancer even without any symptoms.Get tested if you see blood in your phlegm
There are some symptoms that doctors will worry about being related to lung disease. These include severe production of sputum (phlegm), blood in the sputum, or chest pain with breathing, which should be tested at the hospital as they may indicate bad lung condition.
|(Illustration by Park Gee-young)|
When people cough, they often think that there is something wrong with their bronchi, and continue to take cough medication. However, this can be caused by simple mucus production from the nose sent down, which is then brought up while coughing. Dry, episodic coughs can be due to asthma so should be noted. Many people think that wheezing is due to asthma, but this can also be caused by bronchogenic cancer. If your wheezes do not improve with asthma treatment, you should undergo tests that are more detailed.
If you start to feel short of breath during exercise, this may indicate a decline in lung function. If you are a smoker and experience such symptoms, you should be tested more thoroughly. Our body has compensatory functions, so some people may not experience any symptoms even when the lung function drops to half of its normal levels. Therefore, if you are starting to feel breathless, this means that your lung function has declined significantly. Any lung function that has already been damaged will not recover, so it must be considered seriously. Cigarettes are more harmful than dioxin
Cigarette smoking must be mentioned when talking about lung condition. If you do not smoke, you can consider yourself to be maintaining healthy lungs. A person who has smoked two packs of cigarettes daily for 20 years, has approximately 80 times higher risk of developing lung cancer compared to those who have never smoked. They also will experience more rapid decline in lung function.
When a patient in their 60s came to the hospital for breathlessness, I advised them to quit smoking. The patient said that they would continue smoking until they died. However, a person with breathlessness from lung conditions will not die in peace, as they want. As the patients who have breathlessness describe it, it feels just as unbearable as being under water with no escape. Some people have such bad symptoms they cannot even walk to and from the toilet, and need their family to help them. Exercise is the best way to improve lung function
A healthy person can feel breathless with even mild exercise if they do not do regular exercise. On the other hand, a patient with lower lung function can improve their exercise tolerance if they exercise regularly. A patient with decreased lung function cannot recover their lung function with anytreatment. However, if you exercise regularly, your muscles will be trained, which means you can do most exercises with even small lung function. Therefore, regular exercise is a great way to strengthen your lungs. It is also good for the heart, atherosclerosis, and fatty liver, so it is necessary, particularly for office-workers. It is difficult to say certain food is good for the lungs. However, if your diet mostly consists of meat, I would recommend carrots and other vegetables. Some people tend to eat only recommended foods and avoid others, but it is best to eat a regular, balanced diet.
A smoker has a higher risk of developing lung cancer, so the first thing to do is to quit smoking. However, stopping does not mean that you are completely safe from cancer, and therefore you should be regularly checked. A chest x-ray will not readily reveal lung cancer. Regular computer tomography imaging has been reported to allow earlier identification. It may be beneficial to do computer tomography imaging for lung cancer every year if you are smoker.
By Kwon O-jung
The author is a doctor at Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Samsung Medical Center and a professor of Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine. ― Ed.