Albert Lea students learn about lung cancer, dangers of vaping

Published 6:35 pm Friday, November 8, 2019

The surface area of a set of human lungs is roughly the same size as one side of a tennis court.

This is just one of the pieces of knowledge Albert Lea High School eighth grader Henry Buendorf walked away with Friday morning after going through a presentation that included a giant set of inflatable lungs.

“I think we should take care of our lungs better than other kids do sometimes,” Buendorf said.

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The presentation was something Albert Lea High School health teacher Dan Harms said he was happy to work into his curriculum.

“I think with the vaping epidemic that we have in the United States, it’s good for these guys to see to aid in the awareness part so they know what destruction happens to your lungs,” he said.

The administration echoed his sentiment.

“We were really excited about the opportunity to have the display and information brought to our students,” Albert Lea High School Principal Mark Grossklaus said. “It’s something that affects all of them, either themselves, a friend or a family member, and so I think it’s a great thing for them to see and hear about what the actual effects of it are.”

The presentation was brought to the school through a partnership between Mayo Clinic and Genentech, but the presentation itself was done by Geoff Hood of Medical Inflatables.

“Vaping is on everyone’s mind with all the reason deaths and it’s also Lung Cancer Awareness month, so that’s why the Mayo Clinic is partnering with GenenTech to bring us out,” Hood said. “We use this as an educational tool to hopefully raise awareness and trick people into learning something.”

Hood said they get a lot of engagement, which he said is important because teenagers can be a tough group to reach. 

“They hear a lot of information about smoking being bad and vaping being bad, but I use the lung to talk to them about what is actually happening to different parts of the anatomy when someone smokes and vapes,” Hood said.

Mayo Clinic Health System Nurse Practitioner Sydney Schone and Kellie Peterson, a registered nurse in the oncology department, helped arrange the event.

The pair manned a table throughout the day that included Mayo Clinic water bottles and Lung Cancer Awareness Month magnets, as well as written material on lung health.

Peterson said vaping among youth is on the rise and vaping as a teen increases the likelihood of using tobacco products as an adult.

As someone who sees the effects of these products, she said she felt it was important to provide the opportunity for students, as does the Mayo Clinic itself, which hosts the unit in multiple locations.

“Being a community partner in health care is important to us; especially when it comes to educating and informing our children about important health care topics such as this one,” said Mayo Clinic Senior Communications Media Specialist Rick Thiesse. “The lung display focuses on chronic disease prevention on keeping people healthy, engaging and empowering individuals and community to choose healthy behaviors and reduce the risk of developing disease. Empowering individuals to manage lifestyle factors can help prevent chronic disease onset and progression.”


Common lung cancer symptoms

• Persistent cough that doesn’t go away

• Chest pain that’s worse with deep breathing, coughing or laughing

• Hoarse voice

• Unintentional weight loss

• Loss of appetite

• Coughing up rust-colored phlegm

• Shortness of breath

• Feeling tired or weak

• Infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, that are difficult to remedy or keep coming back

• New onset wheezing