Early Lung Cancer Diagnosis Linked to COPD

COPD identification can lead to better lung cancer diagnosis

November 16, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Two of the world's biggest killers are linked and new ways are needed to combat them. New research shows early detection of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can lead to better diagnosis of lung cancer.

A new study shows that COPD patients were five times as likely to develop lung cancer compared to smokers. Patients diagnosed with COPD can then be evaluated and have computed tomography (CT) screenings for lung cancer. Early detection can reduce lung cancer deaths.

"If you have COPD, consult your doctor about a lung cancer screening."

COPD is not one disease but several all linked to airflow complications in the lungs. This includes trouble breathing, feeling out of breath and a constant cough. COPD risk factors include smoking and air pollution.

November 16 is World COPD Day. According to the World Health Organization, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the world, with 64 million people suffering from COPD and three million people dying from the disease.

Researchers from the European Lung Foundation examined 20 years of studies involving the connection between lung cancer and COPD. The researchers were focused on whether or not early detection of COPD can lead to earlier diagnosis of lung cancer. It was discovered that the risk of developing lung cancer was five times higher in COPD patients than smokers.

According to the WHO, lung cancer is the seventh leading cause of death in the world.

Lead author Yasuo Sekine, from the Tokyo Women's Medical University, states that due to the high death rates for both diseases any way to intervene early is a critical step in reducing deaths. Dr. Sekine is optimistic that early detection of COPD leading to lung cancer screenings can be help diagnosis lung cancer.

The data showed that one percent of COPD patients later developed lung cancer compared to 0.2 percent of smokers with normal lung function. Testing for lung function of active and former smokers could lead to early COPD detection. COPD detection can lead to patients being carefully watched and later evaluated with CT scans.

Further studies such as whether or not early COPD detection affects the rate of death for lung cancer can help increase the effectiveness of this link. Other studies can evaluate how to coordinate COPD detection with lung cancer screening or which patients benefit most from early detection.

Both diseases have had disastrous effects on world health and economy but early detection can be a crucial tool for battling the diseases.  

This study was published in the November edition of European Respiratory Journal.

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Review Date: 
November 16, 2011
Last Updated:
November 16, 2011