Just Breathe Part 1


Nov 05, 2021

Welcome back to UHC’s House Call on WDTV. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deaths among women and men in West Virginia. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and joining us tonight is Summer Miller, Coalition Facilitator, with Mountains of Hope, for the first of a four-part interview series on lung cancer and the importance of a lung cancer screening. Mountains of Hope is WV’s Comprehensive Cancer Coalition facilitated by the WVU Cancer Institute.

1). Let us first discuss what a normal lung structure looks like and how the lungs should function.

Your lungs are two sponge-like organs in your chest. Your right lung has 3 sections, called lobes. Your left lung has 2 lobes. The left lung is smaller because the heart takes up more room on that side of the body.

When you breathe in, air enters through your mouth or nose and goes into your lungs through the trachea (windpipe). The trachea divides into tubes called bronchi, which enter the lungs and divide into smaller bronchi. These divide to form smaller branches called bronchioles. At the end of the bronchioles are tiny air sacs known as alveoli. The alveoli absorb oxygen into your blood from the inhaled air and remove carbon dioxide from the blood when you exhale. Taking in oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide are your lungs’ main functions.

2). How common is lung cancer?

Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer).

According to the 2019 WV Cancer Burden Report:

  • Each year approximately 2,047 West Virginians are diagnosed with lung cancer, and, 1,460 will die from the disease.
  • Lung cancer kills more West Virginians than breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer combined.

According to the American Cancer Society, Lung cancer is mainly diagnosed in older people. The average age at diagnosis is currently about age 70 and more than half of the lung cancer is diagnosed with distant metastasis, meaning the cancer has spread out of the lungs to other parts of the body. We now have an opportunity to find lung cancer early before it spreads to other parts of the body. Prior to 2013, there was no early detection test available for the early diagnosis of lung cancer, but now we have low-dose CT, an easy lung cancer screening test for those 50 and older who currently smoke or have previously smoked.

3). When we started this interview you informed us about what a normal lung looks like and how it should function. So where does cancer typically start in the lungs and why do some people get lung cancer?

Lung cancers typically start in the cells lining the bronchi and parts of the lung such as the bronchioles or alveoli. It is difficult to explain why one person develops cancer and another does not. However, research shows that certain risk factors, such as smoking and exposure to second hand smoke and radon, increases the chance that a person will develop cancer. These are risk factors that can be avoided.

United Hospital Center will be having an upcoming Membership Meeting on November 18 from 9 AM - 12:30 PM focused on “Building Bridges Between Policy, Early Detection, and Treatment of Lung Cancer” via Zoom. Both membership in the Mountains of Hope Cancer Coalition and the meeting are free. If you would like more information about lung cancer or our upcoming Membership Meeting, please go to the Mountains of Hope’s website at www.moh.wv.gov.

This content was originally posted on the WDTV News website here.

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