The Respiratory System

By Gracie Summers

How The Respiratory System Works

The nose, throat, windpipe, main air ways and lungs are known as the Respiratory System. It starts with the nose. The nose gets air into the body, and it allows you to smell. As air goes through your nose, thick nose hairs stop germs, and particles from getting into your body. You smell when cells at the top of the nasal passage, called olfactory receptors, detect chemicals in the air. Messages are sent from these receptors to the brain, where the brain processes the information to create the sensation of smell. As air passes through the nasal passage it travels through the pharynx or throat. This is a tube about 5 in long. Along the way tonsils that have white blood cells attack germs and destroy them. Next the air passes to the larynx. This is a 2 in passage way in the neck. The larynx is made up of several pieces of cartilage. This helps filter the air to protect the lungs. This is also known as the voice box, because the vocal cords are located on either side of the larynx. The air next flows to the trachea, also known as the windpipe. A series of 15 to 20 bands of cartilage, each shaped like a C, keep the area from collapsing. Next the air travels to the bronchi. Two large bronchi are made like the trachea. Composed of C shaped cartilage, they filter the air. These bronchi divide into smaller branches until they reach the smallest form called bronchioles. These spread throughout the lungs. Bands of smooth muscles tighten and relax to regulate the amount of air that enters and exits the lungs. At the end of these bronchioles, alveoli will fill with air. Capillaries surround them to circulate the blood. One more germ fighter stands guard called the macrophages. These large cells that start off as typical white blood cells circulate near the aveoli. They souround those and destroy germs. After this the air passes through to the lungs. The lungs put oxygen in the bold stream and take out carbon dioxide. Last there is the diaphram which is a large piece of muscle at the bottom of the chest. On brains command, the diaphram tightens allowing lungs room for inhaling, and they relax for exhaling.

The Lungs

The lungs spongy organs that transfer oxygen into bloodstream, remove carbon dioxide from bloodstream and they help air flow in and out. The lungs do not contain any muscle tissue therefore they cannot move on their own. Epithelial tissue in the lungs help to absorb oxygen to transfer into your blood stream. Stretchy connective tissue expands and shrinks allowing air to flow in and out.

Parts of the Lungs

The lungs are filled with really small alveoli each filled with air. Each lung holds over 300,000,000 alveoli which are grouped together in bunches. If they spread out they could cover the size of a tennis court. With this much room more oxygen can pass through the lungs. Lungs protect the body from harmful substances and bad germs. About 1/10 of the lungs are tissue, the rest is air and blood. They lie in the thoracic cavity. The rib cages 24 bones surround the lungs and heart protecting them from outside forces. Both lungs are enclosed in a waterproof, airtight air sac called the pleura, which keep the lungs moist, but not wet. Lymph nodes help keep the lungs drained and they help to fight diseases. The lungs are among the most delicate organs, which is why there are so many germ stoppers along the journey to the lungs. This is why when pollution, diseases, and smoking can cause a lot of damage to the lungs.


  • Lung Cancer
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Cancer of Trachea
  • Bronchus Cancer

Lung Cancer

Symptoms include-

  • Coughing up blood
  • chest pain
  • recurring chest pains
  • voice hoarseness

Cancer will occur in a body when cells go through a mutation which causes them to grow rapidly and uncontrollably. Lung Cancer happens when cells invade the body and destroy healthy cells in lung tissues and air passages. It can take several years to develop. Lung cancer could begin as pre-cancerous cells that neither cause symptoms nor show up in x-rays. Eventually these cells would turn into a tumor. As the tumor grows it doesn't allow the lungs to function properly. Cancerous cells that break away from the tumor travel through the blood stream and they'll form tumors in other parts of the body, in a process called metastasis.

Types of Lung Cancer

Small Cell Lung Cancer-

  • Starts in the bronchi and go through to the lungs
  • Spreads very quickly
  • Produces large tumors that can travel through blood and throughout body quick
  • Mostly effects life time or very heavy smokers

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer-

  • Cells are larger
  • Spreads slower than small cell lung cancer
  • Grows much slower

Life Span after being Diagnosed

If you catch your lung cancer in the early stages and your chemotherapy, which tries to rid the cancerous cells, works you could live for another good portion of your life. Most people that find out they have lung cancer in the late stages, die within a year of being diagnosed with lung cancer. Very few survive to five years after being diagnosed, depending on the stage and type.

Your progress with lung cancer depends on-

  • type and stage of cancer
  • age once diagnosed
  • overall health
  • lifestyle
  • the success of your treatments (chemotherapy)

You could live without your:

Interacting with other Organ Systems

The respiratory system interacts with the circulatory system when it takes blood from the right side of the heart, recharges and fills it with oxygen, then returns it to the left side of the heart to be distributed around the whole body.The respiratory system also works with the nervous system when it uses the brain to control movements of muscles. The respiratory system also interacts with the muscular system because the diaphram is a muscle that helps to give space for the lungs when they inhale and exhale.
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