The lungs are organs in the body that fill the chest cavity and make up most of the lower respiratory tract. Their most important function is to provide oxygen to the capillaries so they can oxygenate blood. Each lung is divided into lobes. The right lung has three and the left lung has only two, thereby allowing room to accommodate the heart. The lungs are one of the organs in the body that work the hardest; everyday breathing in and out occurs nearly two hundred thousand times.
The microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, in the air you breathe can enter the lungs, and they make respiratory infections quite common. Due to the hard work the lung does daily, coupled with the high number of pollutants in the air; overtime, there is the possibility that problems with the lungs would occur. This possibility would be higher for persons who smoke. Common respiratory infections include sinusitis, common cold, pneumonia and bronchitis.
Men are more likely to develop respiratory problems than women. This is because men are more likely to smoke than women and they are more exposed to agents that can lead to respiratory infections, including lung cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. More than one million people, mostly men, die from lung cancer every year.
As a man, certain factors predispose you to lung cancer and other respiratory infections. Some of these factors are:
- Smoking or secondhand smoking (exposure to cigarette smoke)
Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. Cigarette smoke contains carcinogens (substances that cause cancer). When this smoke is inhaled, immediate change begins in the lungs. The cells that line the lungs begin to get damaged. Initially, the body is able to repair this damage, but over time, the body would no longer be able to and the cells would begin to act abnormally. This would eventually lead to cancer of the lungs. This process also applies to someone who is exposed to cigarette smoke
- Occupational exposure to certain agents
Some of these agents include: chromium, arsenic, asbestos, and nickel. These agents are used in the production of ceiling materials, floor tiles, cement production, textile products, and stainless steels. These chemicals, when inhaled begin to damage the lining of the lungs and the inner cavity tissue. Regardless of the amount inhaled, damage is done to the lungs; therefore there is no safe level of exposure. Those who are exposed to the agents are potentially at risk of developing serious respiratory problems, including lung cancer
- Exposure to radiation, gas, chemical fumes, vapors and dust
Long-term exposure to these agents can irritate and inflame the lungs. When the lungs become inflamed, there is a high risk of developing respiratory infections. These respiratory infections can in turn lead to more serious complications including heart problems, high blood pressure and lung cancer