Breathing is a function that we, as humans, tend to take for granted if we don't have difficulties with it on a daily basis. Think about how you breathe on a normal, day-to-day basis, and then think about how your breathing changes when you get a cold that has nasal congestion as a symptom. Most people realize how nice is it to be able to breathe easily when their breathing is restricted, especially at night when they're trying to sleep. People with COPD may not experience congestion like during a cold, but their breathing is usually limited and restricted, and they can't breathe as easily as healthy people because somewhere along the line, their lungs have been compromised, either accidentally by breathing in some sort of harmful stimulant, because of childhood lung problems, or by being a smoker for a long-term period. Because your lungs take in whatever you breathe, just like your stomach digests everything you eat, one must be conscious about what they inhale to keep the lungs in healthy, working order while you go through the natural aging process of life. The lungs also don't have any special protections to assist them against harmful gases, smoke, etc that are inhaled, so it's even more important to be cognizant of what one puts into the lungs.
Lung problems are important to avoid, because on average, a healthy, adult person will breathe approximately 25 times a minute. If breathing is restricted, the body cannot get the amount of oxygen it needs to keep the system up and working properly. When the lungs are healthy because someone lives a smoke-free lifestyle and avoids inhaling harmful irritants, the body has a better chance of having healthy, properly working organs well into a person's golden years. If not, COPD and other breathing issues, lung problems, and various cancers can make even the most simple tasks difficult.
People who are heavy smokers and are surrounded by harmful inhaled irritants can also develop lung cancer later in life. Lung cancer is the most lethal form of cancer in the United States, producing the highest amount of cancer-caused deaths every year. This is likely because, as previously stated, the lungs are more susceptible to trauma by inhaled irritants because they don't have a way of protecting themselves like other organs in the body do.
Symptoms of lung cancer can be almost impossible to discover in the earliest stages, and can present just like any other breathing-related disease. Wheezing, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing even when no physical activity is present are just a few of the early symptoms. However, over time, symptoms can include:
Untreated COPD can worsen, especially if someone who smokes continues with this behavior even after being diagnosed with emphysema, COPD, or chronic bronchitis. The best way to attack these symptoms after diagnosis is to prevent further damage, since damage that has already happened cannot be reversed. They can only worsen. At Knowing COPD, we always recommend speaking to a doctor if you're a heavy smoker, or if you've experienced any of these symptoms, because a diagnosis is the first step to treatment, and patients with COPD need treatment and preventative measures to be able to get back to a healthy, normal lifestyle instead of worsening their condition. If you have lung cancer, your doctor may take a number of treatment methods to deal with this, but early prevention is always the goal.