Pulmonology is a branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the respiratory system, including the lungs and sinuses. The respiratory system, i.e. the lungs and airways, are of essential importance for providing oxygen to the body, so taking care of their condition is of outmost importance for the whole body.

Air and environmental pollution and, above all, bad lifestyle habits have led to a huge increase in the number of people suffering from diseases of the respiratory system. Smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke is the main cause of many respiratory diseases, so avoiding tobacco smoke, including electronic cigarettes, plays a key role in prevention.

Some of the common diseases covered by a pulmonologist are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, pneumonia, respiratory infections and lung cancer.

Diagnostic methods include:

spirometry to assess lung capacity and exhalation rate
X-ray of the lungs, which enables a visual assessment of the condition of the lungs
CT of the lungs, which provides a more detailed visualization of the lung structures
bronchoscopy, which is an endoscopic examination of the airways

It is important to regularly monitor the respiratory condition and consult a pulmonologist for proper diagnosis and therapy. A pulmonologist not only diagnoses and treats respiratory diseases, but also educates patients about the importance of prevention and preservation of respiratory tract health. Timely lung care is crucial for maintaining quality of life and preventing serious pulmonary complications.

The most common symptoms of respiratory diseases are:

Difficulty breathing – Breathing that requires greater effort or is accompanied by sound changes
Cough – A common symptom, it can be dry or accompanied by expectoration of mucus or, in urgent cases, blood
Chest pain – A feeling of pressure or pain in the chest
Fatigue – Feeling exhausted and lacking energy.
Changes in breathing rhythm – Irregular breathing rhythm or changes in breathing rate.

The most serious, but unfortunately very common disease of the respiratory system is lung cancer. Our country takes the infamous second place in Europe in terms of lung cancer mortality, while the number of patients increases every year. In Serbia, an average of 20 new patients are diagnosed per day, 13 lose the battle, i.e. every two hours we lose one person.

Low-dose MSCT or LDCT (low-dose CT) has a key role in lung cancer screening. Lung cancer screening is the detection of lung cancer at a very early stage, when the probability of cure is incomparably higher. Unfortunately, due to the lack of nerve endings and pain receptors in the lungs, lung cancer is usually detected in the late stages of the disease when the chances of cure are quite low. By the time lung cancer signs and symptoms appear, it’s usually too late. Studies show that screening for lung cancer drastically reduces the risk of dying from this form of cancer.

Who should consider screening?

Lung cancer screening is usually recommended for people at highest risk for lung cancer, including:

Older adults who currently smoke or have smoked in the past. Lung cancer screening is usually offered to smokers and ex-smokers who are 50 years of age or older. Persons who have smoked in large quantities for many years. Lung cancer screening may be considered if you have a smoking history of 20 years or more. Pack-years are calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes you smoke per day by the number of years you have smoked.

For example, a person with a 20-pack-year smoking history might have smoked a pack a day for 20 years, two packs a day for 10 years, or half a pack a day for 40 years. Even if your smoking habits have changed over the years, your memory of your smoking history can be used to determine whether lung cancer screening might be beneficial for you.

People who used to smoke heavily, but have stopped. If you have been a heavy smoker for a long period of time and have stopped within the last 15 years, you may want to consider screening for lung cancer.

People with a history of lung cancer. If you were treated for lung cancer more than five years ago, you may consider lung cancer screening. People with other risk factors for lung cancer. People who have other risk factors for lung cancer may include those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, those with a family history of lung cancer, and those who have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace.