Monday, July 4, 2011


Dear Respiratory friends,
Today I am happy to present guest post from Heather Von St. James. Heather is a 5-year survivor of malignant mesothelioma. Heather will offer inspiration to cancer patients in efforts to broaden a sense of optimism, awareness, and support!
Thank you Heather from all!

The lungs are often a surprisingly overlooked part of the body. The heart, brain and digestive system seem to get more publicity, but the lungs, which take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, are equally crucial to life. Some of the things that impact the lungs are not in our control, like exposure to pollutants and allergens, including asbestos. However there are some things people can do to contribute to lung health.


Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. In the lungs mesothelioma might begin in the pleura, or the tissue that lines and protects the outside of the lungs and the inside of the chest. The tissue is also called mesothelium, which gives its name to this form of cancer. The early symptoms of mesothelioma are like the symptoms of other lung diseases: people experience pain in the chest, find it hard to breathe, lose appetite and weight, and might cough up sputum streaked with blood. A biopsy will be performed to make sure the problem is mesothelioma. Treatment can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and forms of immunotherapy. Each year 3,000 new cases are diagnosed, but mesothelioma prognosis isn't good: 5 to 10% of mesothelioma patients are alive five years after their diagnosis. 

Other Lung Diseases

Asthma manifests as periodic attacks of wheezing and breathlessness. This is caused when the bronchi and bronchioles, or the lung’s airways, spasm and swell and mucus becomes thick enough to close off air to the lungs. Allergens and irritants like pollen, dust, animal hair, molds, foods, and smoke often cause asthma. Aspirin and other drugs can cause some asthma attacks. Asthma can also be brought on by exercise and stress, so it’s best to avoid these triggers. 

Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses or in the case of pneumocystis carinii, a one-celled organism. The common symptoms of all types include shortness of breath, chest pain, cough which may or may not bring up blood, fatigue and fever. Bronchiectasis is when the airways of the lungs become blocked and accumulate mucus, bronchiolitis is an inflammation of the smallest airways in the lungs and mostly affects young children, and bronchitis, both acute and chromic, are an inflammation of the lung’s bronchial tubes in general. 

The best thing one can do for the health of one’s lungs is to not smoke, and avoid polluted areas, allergens and other irritants if at all possible. Other things that promote the health of the lungs are antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotenes and extracts from flavonoids like grape seed, pine bark, green tea and ginkgo biloba. 


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