How cigarettes affect your lungs?

How does smoking affect the lungs?

Constant irritation of the bronchial lining by cigarette smoke causes the tiny hairs (cilia) that line the bronchial lining to disappear. Without these tiny hairs to sweep it into the throat in the cleansing action, the mucus remains trapped and "smoker's cough" often results. Continued smoking can cause the cells to form abnormal growth patterns and eventually to turn into cancer. Some recent studies indicate that lung cancer could be cut by as much as 80 percent if all smoking ceased. When a person stops smoking, the lungs begin to cleanse and repair themselves.

What kinds of tests does the doctor do when he is looking for lung cancer? 

Usually the doctor starts by getting a health history, which gives him important clues to the most likely diagnosis. Then he will do a physical exam, looking, for example, for a hard lump in the neck which would suggest that cancer may have spread from some nearby part of the body to the lymph nodes of the neck. He will order complete blood counts and tests to check the functioning of your liver. A chest xray is a very basic test for lung cancer. If it is present, it usually shows up as a shadow on the x-ray. However, the smallest tumor which can be seen on an x-ray of the chest is about 1/2 inch in diameter. At this time metastasis may already have occurred. The doctor may see fluid that is collected in the space between the lung and the chest wall. This fluid, called pleural effusion, can be seen on the x-ray film. Pleural effusion is not always a sign of lung cancer.

Usually when the cancer is in the very small bronchial tubes or in the air sacs in the outer portions of the lung, it is easy to see on the x-ray. Cancers in the larger bronchi are less easy to see, but they frequently cause a change in the adjacent lung tissue, and that can be located through the xray. The chest x-ray might also show enlarged lymph nodes that have filled with cancer cells even when the original tumor cannot be seen in the lung. When this happens, the doctor must continue to look for the original site of the cancer, using other diagnostic tools.

Here’s the Reality of How Smoking Affects Your Lungs… and It’s Not Pretty

Is the chest x-ray ever used when the doctor has already made the diagnosis of cancer with other tools? 

The initial x-ray will give the doctor a basis with which he can compare later x-rays, following the patient's progress and watching for changes in the lung tissue by comparing the early chest x-rays with later ones.

What other diagnostic tools does the doctor use to detect lung cancer? 

There are several other diagnostic tools which can be used. They include sputum examination, bronchoscopy, tomogram, bronchogram, pulmonary function test, biopsy, mediastinoscopy, bone scan, liver scan, brain scan, bone marrow biopsy, thoracentesis, thoracoscopy and thoractomy.


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