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COPD: What, How and Why?

17 Nov

Does the term COPD sound familiar to you? Do you smoke? Are you subjected to passive smoking? Have you ever read about the air quality levels in your metro? No?

Here are eight things  you need to know!

1. So what is COPD? It sounds Greek and Latin to me

COPD in medical terms is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. In simple terms, your airways to your lungs get narrowed. As the airways are obstructed, you get shortness of breath

2. Why is it dangerous?

Due to breathlessness and lack of secretions, the lung tissues will get affected in the long run. There is a 80% chance for COPD patient to be affected by Lung cancer. In fact, COPD is the 6th leading cause of death in the world and will become the 4th leading cause of death by 2030. It’s currently the 4th leading cause of death in US

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease


3. What are the main causes for this disease?

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD in the world. More than 80% of the patients in US are cigarette smokers. In India, 5 % of the adults are affected by COPD.  The main causes for this disease in India are smoking and tobacco usage

4. But I don’t smoke; hope I will not get affected by COPD?

There was research conducted in 2007 among slum dwellers in Pune and over 50 % of the non-smokers were affected by COPD. There are other reasons for people getting affected with COPD. It includes air pollution; occupational exposures like mining, construction, welding, passive smoking, wood smoking, and even long exposures to dust may cause COPD. Dr Madhu, Pulmonologist from Frontier Lifeline adds “Most often, there are traces of black spots on every Indian’s lungs, whether smoker or a non-smoker. Much of this is due to poor air quality. Smokers are definitely at a greater risk”

5. What are the symptoms for the disease?

  • Long history of smoking
  • Consistent cough and excessive sputum production
  • Shortness of breath during normal conditions
  • Limitation of airflow to the lungs
  • Rapid breathing
  • Wheezing sounds and enlargement of the chest

Advanced COPD patients may even have direct respiratory failure, which is quite dangerous. But the most common symptom is shortness of breath. Have yourself tested, if you observe the above symptoms

6. So how can we test for COPD?

The most usual test to diagnose COPD is through Spirometry – a test that measures breathing. A few advanced methods like Chest Tomography can also be made for COPD. But a basic Spriometry test will diagnose the presence of COPD

Spirometry Test at Frontier Lifeline

Pic Courtesy: NY Times

7. Our medical methods are advanced. I hope there is some cure for this disease?

The disease is not curable. In terminal stages, lung transplant is the only option. You can either prevent or treat for COPD not cure it. The cost of treating the disease is quite high and spending in India is unknown. So for a country like India, preventing the disease is more important than treating the patients There are more than 250 Million tobacco users in India (according to WHO) and they are prone to COPD more than anybody else. Creating awareness is the need of the hour.

8. How to prevent COPD?

  • Creating awareness against smoking and helping people to rehabilitate from smoking addiction
  • Creating awareness about air pollution and strict enactment of pollution laws
  • Poor people who work in the mines, construction sites etc., are the most prone to such diseases and providing them better living conditions will help in preventing the disease

Today is World COPD Day; share this article with your friend who you think could be prone to this disease. Frontier Lifeline is conducting free Spirometry test and pulmonary consultation for people registering for the same on 17th Nov 2010. Spread the for those for whom it would be helpful

You can also check our blog posts on Lung Carcinoma and Why you should quit smoking


Lung Carcinoma: Facts and Figures

18 Dec

Simply put, lung carcinoma or lung cancer is a disease of uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. This leads to metastasis, where in the disease spreads to the adjacent part or adjacent organs.


Carcinoma of the lung

Picture Source: http://www.taconichills.k12.ny

Some disturbing facts:

Lung carcinoma is the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide.

Lung cancer, the most common cause of cancer-related death in men and women, is responsible for 1.3 million deaths worldwide annually.

About 85% of cases are related to cigarette smoking.

Deaths due to lung cancer are more than those due to colorectal, breast and prostate cancers put together

About 15% of people who develop lung cancer have never smoked. In these people, the exact reason lung cancer develops is unknown. Recent studies have reported that some never-smoking people with lung cancer have genetic mutations in the epidermal growth factor gene (EGFR)


Carcinoma of the lung

Non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC)

  • Frequent and Highly aggressive
  • Occurs largely in smokers
  • It grows rapidly and majority of the patients have widespread metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis

Small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC)

  • Less frequent and less common
  • Smoking, environmental and occupational exposures are possible but not established


  • Chest x-ray
  • CT or combined PET–CT
  • Cytopathology examination of pleural fluid or sputum
  • Usually, bronchoscopy-guided biopsy and fine-needle aspiration
  • Sometimes open lung biopsy

Common Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular coughing pattern and coughing up blood
  • Chest Pain
  • Loss of apetite
  • Weight loss
  • Change in voice]
  • Difficulty in swallowing


Smoking and passive smoking:

According to the Indian Journal of Chest Diseases & Allied Sciences:

Smoking is the most important contributory lung carcinogen.

Smoking is the most important contributory factor in the causation of lung cancer. In patients with lung cancer a history of active tobacco smoking is present in 87% of males and in 85% of females. History of passive tobacco exposure is found in only three per cent. The relative risk of developing lung cancer is 2.64 for bidi smokers and 2.23 for cigarette smokers with 2.45 as the overall relative risk.

Bidi is more carcinogenic as has been shown in studies and Hooka smoking has also been associated with lung.

Environmental tobacco smoke is a known lung carcinogen. A meta-analysis of 41 studies showed that environmental tobacco exposure carries a relative risk of development of lung cancer of 1.48 (1.13-1.92) in males and 1.2 (1.12- 1.29) in females. Risk increases with increase in exposure. Exposure at work place results in a relative risk of 1.16. In a study on non-smoking lung cancer patients, environmental tobacco exposure during childhood carried an OR of 3.9 (95% CI-1.9-8.2). There was an increasing risk with increase in number of smokers in the household and the duration of exposure. Women had a higher OR of 5.1. Work place and vehicular pollutant exposure have shown a weak association. Another study has shown that environmental tobacco smoke exposure during childhood is strongly associated with the risk of later development of lung cancer

Occupational Risk:

Certain occupations carry a higher risk of lung cancer. The following occupational exposures are known to be associated with an increased risk: (a) Asbestos: insulation workers and shipyard workers are exposed to asbestos. There is some increase in the risk of lung cancer after 10 years of exposure and a substantial risk after 20 years of exposure. Concurrent smoking increases the risk to 90 fold

(b) Arsenic: smelter workers and vineyard workers are exposed to arsenic. The risk is dose related. Lung cancers have an upper lobe predominance and there may be multiple primaries

(c) Nickel Refinery workers: Squamous cell carcinoma is more common

(d) Radiation (Uranium mining): oat cell carcinoma is more common

(e) Haematite mining: due to radon exposure

(f) Hard rock mining

(g) Chromium exposure in ore mining and pigment manufacturing: Squamous cell variety is most common

(h) Chloromethyl exposure in workers in industries: oat cell carcinoma is most common

(i) Ethers and mustard gas: squamous and undifferentiated carcinomas are most common

(j) Soot, tars exposure in coke oven workers and

(k) Oils and coke exposure in Gas house workers, roofers and rubber workers.