The lungs are the parts of the body that we use to breathe. We have two lungs (right and left). They supply oxygen to the organs and tissues of the body. The lungs are divided into areas called lobes. The right lung has three lobes and the left lung has two lobes.
The lungs are covered by a lining called the pleura, which has two layers. The inner layer covers the lungs. The outer layer lines the ribcage and the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that separates the chest from the upper tummy (abdomen).
The lungs are part of our respiratory (breathing) system. This system includes the:
- nose and mouth
- windpipe (trachea)
- two tubes (bronchi) that branch from the windpipe going into each lung
When we breathe in, air passes from our nose or mouth through to the windpipe (trachea). The trachea divides into two tubes (airways) that go to each lung. These tubes are called the right and left bronchus.
Air passes through each bronchus into the lungs through smaller tubes called bronchioles. At the end of the bronchioles, there are tiny air sacs called alveoli. This is where oxygen from the air we have breathed in (inhaled) passes into the blood. The oxygen is then circulated through the blood around the body.
A waste gas called carbon dioxide passes from the blood into the air sacs (alveoli). We get rid of carbon dioxide when we breathe out (exhale).
The lymphatic system helps protect us from infection and disease. It drains lymph fluid from the tissues of the body and then returns it to the blood. The lymphatic system is made up of fine tubes called lymphatic vessels that connect to groups of lymph nodes throughout the body. Lymph nodes (sometimes called lymph glands) are small and bean-shaped. They filter bacteria (germs) and disease from the lymph fluid. When you have an infection, lymph nodes often swell as they fight it.
Sometimes, cancer can spread through the lymphatic system. If the cancer cells spread outside the lungs, they are most likely to go to lymph nodes nearby in the chest.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our lung cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Lung cancer – Diagnosis and management. Clinical guideline 2019.
Metastatic non-small cell lung cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. 2018.
European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO). Early and locally advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC): ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. 2017.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr David Gilligan, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.
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