November is Lung Cancer Awareness month, a great time to stop taking these vital organs for granted.
Did you know that the surface area of your lungs is big enough to cover an entire tennis court? According to the American Lung Association, lungs are amazing organs, capable of breathing 2,000 gallons of air per day.
Spending some time to think about keeping them strong and healthy is important no matter your age or current state of health. So, how can you keep them operating at peak performance?
Smoke-Free Is Best
“The first thing to do is to abstain from smoking, whether it be regular cigarettes or e-cigarettes, also known as vaping,” says Dr. Todd Weiser, Chief, Thoracic Surgery at White Plains Hospital. “We do know the long-term effects that cigarettes have on the lungs and other organs, including the heart and blood vessels. We don’t know the long-term effects of vaping. We’re concerned that the effects could be just as bad and that decades from now, we’ll really see the effects of long-term electronic-cigarette use.”
Try A Screening
Current guidelines from the US Preventive Services Task Force call for regular lung cancer screenings if you are at high risk. Low-dose CT scanning is recommended for people ages 50 to 80 who have a 20-pack-year history (one pack/day for 20 years) of smoking who are current smokers or who quit in the past 15 years. Ask your provider if it’s right for you.
To ensure proper lung health, you should also embrace exercise, Dr. Weiser stresses. Just as it makes muscles strong and healthy, it strengthens lungs, making them more efficient. The American Cancer Society guidelines suggest the average person get 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week – about 40 minutes a day – or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination. Getting 300 minutes or even more will give you the most health benefits.
Good Hygiene Is Key
Dr. Weiser is in favor of the current recommendations to wear a mask, wash hands frequently and social distance. “They’re the three strong ways we have of not becoming infected with COVID,” he says. Those with asthma or obstructive lung disease should also be vigilant about taking any prescribed inhalers or medication. “They’ll keep your lungs as fit as possible, just in case you do get the virus,” he says.
Consult Your Doctor
Whether you are a smoker or not, always see a physician if you experience any troubling respiratory symptoms, including a prolonged cough, increasing shortness of breath, chest pain, or coughing up blood. “Lung cancer kills more patients every year in the United States than any other cancer—more than the next three most common killers combined,” Dr. Weiser says. Early detection is your best chance for long-term survival.