Find out more about lung cancer

By Dr. José Manuel Mier Odriozola. Chest Surgeon / November 2016

The human being lives on a planet, whose living environment is changing, diverse, incredible and does not respond to its wishes, it is this that throughout the history of humanity has been adapting, changing, ultimately evolving , in order to coexist on earth, therefore, the different conditions of this environment mean that these beings called people can have a life cycle. It is the earth that provides everything necessary for the sustenance of humanity, water, light, food, etc. But it is also sometimes in charge of regulating world population in a certain way.

The evolution of other companions of the environment, for example, microorganisms, make new diseases appear, some of them controllable, others curable, others in the process of being controlled, all of which in some way regulate the growing number of the world’s population. The advance in the knowledge of these microscopic organisms means that they can be combated. But what about natural phenomena, for example? They happen all the time, they cause devastating phenomena far and wide of the planet and little or almost nothing can be done to avoid it! What can be done to stop a tornado, an earthquake, the phenomenon of “El Niño”, etc. The only thing that can help is to take some precautions so that if these phenomena fall close to those people they are the least affected.

One of these uncontrollable and almost unpredictable natural phenomena is volcanic activity. This phenomenon, perhaps the oldest on the planet, has shaped the environment we inhabit today, has formed the continents, the sea, regulates in a certain way the temperature of the planet, in short, it is one of the most important actors and responsible for the species. Human and all the others are cohabiting this huge rotating rock suspended in the immense space, it is paradoxical to think that this phenomenon that has given so much to its inhabitants, can also take away from them!

Mexico City is in the middle of one of the areas with the largest number of volcanoes in the world, most of them inactive at the moment, specifically the Pocpocatepetl Volcano, a hallmark of the inhabitants and the culture of all those who For centuries they have inhabited the great valley of Mexico, it has been active for more than 20 years, its constant fumaroles, eruptions, tectonic movements, etc., make it very present. It has been in recent weeks when due to the high levels of pollution and the known adverse effects of these on people’s health, when many begin to wonder, what about the ash and emissions from the volcano? Could they also be harmful to health?

The ashes emanating from the volcano are the product of the combustion that occurs inside the earth and that is emitted with great power to the environment, these particles of less than 2mm, can ascend in the sky several kilometers and thanks to the currents of air power you expanded and deposited hundreds of kilometers away from the crater of the volcano. The ashes are mainly composed of some types of minerals such as: sodium oxide, magnesium oxide, aluminum trioxide, sulfur trioxide, chlorine oxide, potassium oxide, calcium oxide and titanium dioxide, being suspended in the air Since living beings with the respiratory system breathe, these minerals can be deposited in the lungs and therefore cause significant health problems.

Among the most common symptoms detected in humans by the emission of ashes, are the immediate effects, such as topical problems of eye and skin irritation, as well as allergies and respiratory problems such as difficulty breathing or even exacerbations of asthma. All of them are ailments that can be controlled relatively easily and that once the exposure to these agents is suspended, the person can feel well again.

The serious problem comes when we examine the late effects of volcanic ash aspiration and deposition in the body. As we have already mentioned, the ashes are mineral particles less than 2mm that due to their size can be deposited in the lungs, which do not have the capacity to eliminate or destroy these particles and which are stored inside, these particles in the long run. that cause is an irritating damage to the alveolar-capillary membrane in charge of correct oxygenation, which becomes inflamed, hardens and fibrous and coerces that gas exchange (main function of the lungs) cannot be carried out, this process is known such as pulmonary fibrosis, a similar phenomenon occurs to people exposed by labor to mineral products such as coal, talc, cement, etc.

Many of the ashes and pyroclastic materials issued from the volcano’s crater, due to their high temperatures, can crystallize and thus we find very beautiful formations such as obsidian stones, which were used as weapons and cutting utensils by the inhabitants of this region for centuries, within from these ashes you can find some crystals and asbestos fibers, which in a volatile way can be deposited in the lungs and after many years develop pleuro-pulmonary tumors such as Malignant Mesothelioma and increase the risk of suffering some types of lung cancer such as Lung adenocarcinoma due to known carcinogenic titanium dioxide.

Unfortunately, these diseases are not like those that appear with the immediate effects of the ashes, which heal quickly and almost always without sequelae, besides they are not symptomatically striking as an allergy, eye irritation or asthma; On the contrary, they cause silent, very aggressive diseases and when they are usually diagnosed they have little or sometimes no treatment with curative intent, this is the case of Malignant Mesothelioma, which at the time of diagnosis the average survival does not exceed 20 months .

Lung cancer and other chest tumors are curable as long as they are detected and treated early and correctly. To detect who could have Lung Cancer, you have to answer 5 simple questions:

Are you over 50 years old?

Are you a smoker of more than 30 packs a year?

Do you have a first degree relative with lung, pleural, laryngeal or airway cancer?

Do you suffer from an immunosuppressive state or are you on steroids?

Do you have environmental exposures to toxic gases, minerals, radiation, etc?

If your answer is affirmative in 2 or more of these points, you are a candidate to carry out a respiratory “check Up” in search of a pleuropulmonary tumor. Low-dose, high-resolution chest tomography can detect these diseases early so that curative treatment can be offered. The Chest Surgeon, Pulmonologist or Medical Oncologist are the appropriate specialists for the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases.


Returning to the initial paradox that the earth gives and the earth takes away, it is demonstrated once again that it is so! In this writing we see how it is possible that some diseases even Cancer can fall from heaven.

Take care of yourself in a timely manner, your LUNGS will thank you.


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