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Simple Test Can Detect Serious Lung Disease

Smokers at risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

WEDNESDAY, June 23, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A simple lung-function test called spirometry can help detect chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in its early stages and help people with this common lung disease live longer lives.

Smokers and former smokers should have the test, National Jewish Medical and Research Center experts advise in an article in the June 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

COPD, the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, is caused primarily by smoking tobacco. About 10 to 20 percent of smokers develop the disease.

"Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a treatable and preventable disease," Dr. E. Rand Sutherland, assistant professor of medicine at the Denver center, said in a prepared statement.

"Because people do not generally recognize symptoms of COPD until their lungs are functioning about half as well as normal, lung-function testing, or spirometry, is crucial to detecting the disease before extensive lung damage has occurred," Sutherland said.

While there is no cure for COPD, early detection enables doctors to take action to slow the progressive loss of lung function, improve symptoms and quality of life, and prevent flare-ups that can require hospitalization or cause death.

Medications and pulmonary rehabilitation are used to treat people with COPD. People with COPD live longer if they quit smoking.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about COPD.

SOURCE: New England Journal of Medicine, news release, June 23, 2004
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