Early Detection of COPD could help prevent lung cancer

By Angela Munro - 16 Nov 2011 0:1:1 GMT
Early Detection of COPD could help prevent lung cancer

X-ray picture of lungs via Shutterstock

New research has found that the early screening of COPD could help detect lung cancer at is early stages. According to research published in the European Respiratory Journal, the onset of COPD could help the diagnosis of lung cancer as the two diseases are said to be linked.

COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, is a condition which affects around 2 million people in the UK alone and is the fourth biggest killer worldwide. Smokers or previous smokers are more likely to develop this condition than non-smokers as the toxins inhaled in smoke cause the narrowing of the airways. There are investigations into whether pollution is also a cause.

The term COPD covers various diseases of the lungs which cause airway obstruction and narrowing. The most common are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Symptoms of these are the inflammation of the bronchi, which carry oxygen through the lungs and loss of elasticity of the alveoli, which transfer oxygen to the lungs. These symptoms in turn cause the narrowing of the airways and difficulty breathing associated with COPD.

A review of research over the past twenty years was conducted. The papers were primarily focussed on the link between COPD and lung cancer development as well as the importance of early COPD detection for prevention of lung cancer. It was found that the chances of developing lung cancer increase by 0.8% when patients also have COPD as opposed to those who do not.

It was also suggested that, by monitoring the lung functioning of smokers and previous smokers, COPD could be detected early and lung cancer could be prevented by early CT scanning. Early detection of lung cancer could potentially save millions of lives and COPD may serve as an indicator.

COPD and lung cancer are major causes of mortality worldwide therefore early detection and treatment could have a positive economic impact for health services. There is no cure for COPD and bronchodilators are used to aid breathing long term. Often, the symptoms of lung diseases such as COPD are ignored by patients meaning their chances of developing lung cancer increase significantly.

Quitting smoking also reduces the chances of the on-set of COPD and, if smokers already have it, quitting smoking can reduce the symptoms. It has been suggested that World COPD day would be an ideal time to introduce early COPD screening in smokers and by working together, the medical community could reduce the impact of severe respiratory conditions.

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Topics: Lung Disease / Cancer