Detect COPD to cut cancer deaths, experts urge

Earlier detection of COPD could improve lung cancer survival rates, research suggests.

Practice nurse discussing inhaler use with a patient with COPD (Photograph: SPL)
Practice nurse discussing inhaler use with a patient with COPD (Photograph: SPL)

Experts and charities said it was 'critical' to widely offer spirometry to improve detection rates of both diseases.

The calls were made on World COPD Day, which aims to raise awareness of the condition.

It comes as an exclusive investigation by GP found a lack of PCT investment in the gold standard treatment for COPD is undermining patients’ quality of life and increasing practice workload.

The paper published in the European Respiratory Journal looked at studies from the past 20 years that had explored the links between the diseases.

This found that COPD patients are five times as likely to develop lung cancer as people with normal lung function.

Around one in 100 patients with the chronic disease developed cancer, compared with one in 500 without lung impairment.

Testing the lung function of former and active smokers would identify COPD earlier, thereby improving early detection of lung cancer and improving survival chances, it found.

Lead author Yasuo Sekine, of Tokyo Women’s Medical University, said: 'The findings from our analysis suggest that early detection of COPD in addition to lung cancer screening for these patients could be an effective detection technique for lung cancer. However, further research is still needed to determine the selection criteria for COPD and lung cancer screening.'

Monica Fletcher, chairwoman of the European Lung Foundation, said millions had COPD but it was often undetected.

'People frequently ignore the symptoms of lung disease and leave it too late before going to the doctor,' she said. 'This research highlights the need for routine lung function tests, known as spirometry, to help improve quality of life and identify other conditions that could be present.'

Professor Klaus Rabe, president of the European Respiratory Society, said: 'On World COPD Day, we would also urge European governments to improve early detection of respiratory diseases, such as COPD.'

Meanwhile, patients' respiratory associations across Europe said governments must work harder to reduce the £28 billion annual cost of COPD.

Proposals from the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations to reduce this burden include listing COPD as a warning on tobacco products, improving access to spirometry and funding research on how to avoid exacerbations.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus