November is Dedicated to COPD and Lung Cancer Awareness
- Posted on: Nov 27 2018
Breathe easy! November is dedicated to lung health in that both COPD Awareness and Lung Cancer Awareness are observed this month. It’s sad but true, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Today, we’ll talk about how doctors are using chest CT scans and x-rays as a tool to diagnose both ailments. We’ll also share how you can improve your lung health in hopes of avoiding future problems.
Diagnosing COPD and Lung Cancer with Diagnostic Imaging
Lung Cancer is sometimes more easily diagnosed with a CT scan than a chest x-ray.
If your doctor suspects you have lung cancer, a chest x-ray will often be the first test your doctor will do. Then, if something suspicious is revealed in the test, further testing will be ordered. In all likelihood, the next test will be a CT scan. However, in some cases your doctor will skip that first x-ray, and go straight for the CT scan depending on the severity of your symptoms.
The CT scan takes more than one picture, and therefore is more likely to show lung tumors if they exist. A CT scan can also reveal things like the shape and size, as well as the position of any lung tumors and/or enlarged lymph nodes that could be present.
What happens after a CT scan? If nothing is found, your doctor may order further testing depending on your symptoms. If something suspicious is found in your CT scan however, your doctor may order a second CT scan to confirm, or perform a different test such as a bronchoscopy or biopsy to determine if you have lung cancer.
A chest x-ray or CT scan could reveal that you have COPD depending on what stage your in.
In some cases, a chest x-ray or even a CT scan is not enough to determine if your lung issues are COPD. In fact, it’s common for a person in the earliest stages of COPD to have an x-ray and CT scan come back completely normal. This is because abnormal results generally only occur when the damage to the lungs is extensive.
You may be wondering why a doctor would order a chest x-ray or CT scan at all. What these tests can do is give your doctor a visual reference point to compare if any changes are happening over time. This is why your doctor may order a chest x-ray annually or biannually if you have COPD symptoms.
With all of this said however, a CT scan may be able to reveal copd sooner than an x-ray. The reason for this is similar to that of why lung cancer is more easily detected in a CT scan than an x-ray. There are more images taken in a CT scan, and as a result there are more chances to detect an issue. Furthermore, a contrasting agent can be introduced to the body prior to your CT scan to better reveal if anything is amiss in your lungs.
If it is revealed that you have COPD, your doctor will prescribe a treatment for you. However, it’s important to note that COPD has no cure, and the symptoms typically get worse over time. The good news is that treatment can sometimes lesson the symptoms, and often slow the progress of the disease.
Improving Your Lung Health and Preventing Problems
As with all ailments that could impact the body, not everything is completely preventable. Still, there are several things you can do to improve your lung health. The number one thing is to stop smoking if you are a smoker because it’s the primary cause of lung problems.
Another thing that might surprise you that you can do to improve your lung health, is to drink more water. Staying hydrated is important for your entire body, and drinking enough water helps rid your body of toxins. Enough water also helps to keep the mucosal linings in the lungs thin for better lung function.
Finally, you also need a good exercise and diet regimen. Your body needs to be a healthy weight, and you need to regularly exercise for the sake of your lungs. Extra weight means added pressure to your lungs as you to try to breathe daily. And, when you aren’t working out, you aren’t training your lungs to work at their best. Talk to your doctor about a diet and exercise regimen if you don’t currently have one. It could save your lungs, and it could save your life!