Battle Plan to fight one of nation's top killers

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Battle Plan to fight one of nation's top killers


Saskatoon, SK (November 16, 2004) -- The Lung Association released details today, on the eve of World COPD Day, for a three-point plan to fight chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) “ a disease that affects 714,000 Canadians and is rapidly rising among women.


"We need to take action now," says Dr. Darcy Marciniuk, the Lung Association's medical spokesperson and holder of the Lung Association-COPD Professorship at the University of Saskatchewan. "Over half of the people living with COPD remain undiagnosed.  Many hospitalizations could be prevented and the mortality rate decreased if Canadians were more aware of the COPD symptoms."  Based on recent prevalence studies, the true number of COPD patients in Canada is likely well over 1 million.

Women between the ages of 35 - 54 should be especially concerned if showing symptoms.  COPD is on the rise for this group of women.  If you are female and have smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for over 20 years, you should get a spirometry test “ a very simple breathing test, that should be as routine as a mammogram, states Dr. Marciniuk.

To take action against this growing health concern, the Lung Association is recommending the following three-point plan to combat COPD:

1. Recognize the symptoms

If you or someone you know currently smokes cigarettes, or have smoked in the past, you may be at risk of developing COPD. If you are concerned about your lung health, take The Canadian Lung Health Test:

  • Do you cough regularly?
  • Do you cough up phlegm regularly?
  • Do even simple chores make you short of breath?
  • Do you wheeze when you exert yourself, or at night?
  • Do you get frequent colds that persist longer than those of other people you know?

2. See your doctor
Early diagnosis is one of the keys to slowing the progression of COPD and having a better quality of life. If you have answered ˜Yes' to two or more of the above questions, speak to your doctor about taking a simple breathing test (spirometry).

3. Call The Lung Association to form your management plan
Whether you are recently diagnosed, or have lived with COPD for years, The Lung Association's BreathWorksâ„¢ Program can help. BreathWorks provides free information on COPD, resources and support for Canadians through the BreathWorks toll-free Helpline, staffed by COPD Educators at 1-866-717-COPD (2673) or online at

When I finally sought medical help, my condition was well-advanced, says Barb Charbonneau, a 54-year old with COPD diagnosed four years ago. I started becoming short of breath and more tired with physical activity over 12 years ago. I thought I was just out of shape! I firmly believe that because of the expert medical care I have received, the support of the qualified heath professionals, my family and friends, and especially the Lung Association and the pulmonary rehabilitation program, I have learned to live with my disease.

Regardless of the stage at which your COPD is at, it is important to take action and manage it properly.  This will greatly decrease the possibility of flare-ups requiring hospital visits and admissions. COPD flare-ups are one of the top reasons for hospital admissions and are devastating for patients, taking up to 26 weeks for a return to their previous health status, which is poor to begin with stated Dr. Marciniuk.

COPD Facts

The Burden of COPD
The burden on the health care system is enormous.  In 2000/2001, in-patient hospitalization alone cost Saskatchewan $11 million.

  • COPD is ranked 5th as a major cause of hospitalization.

According to new data from the Canadian Community Health Survey 2003:

  • 26,000 new cases of COPD were diagnosed among Canadian women between 2001-2003.
  • The total reported cases of COPD in Canada is now at 420,000 for women and 294,000 for men.
  • Women between the ages of 55-74 are the largest patient group, with the 35-54 age-range close behind.

What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease largely caused by smoking.  The lungs' airways are tightened, making breathing difficult and putting the lungs more at risk of infection.  COPD gets worse over time resulting in frequent flare-ups if left untreated.  A disease which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, people with COPD often struggle for every breath and have difficulty performing simple tasks such as walking up stairs and talking.

There is no known cure for COPD but it is treatable and preventable.  Medications for COPD can help prevent or relieve shortness of breath, coughing, flare-ups, and can improve ability to exercise. As well, pulmonary rehabilitation can be recommended to increase exercise endurance and quality of life, and in severe cases, COPD sufferers may require home oxygen.

Who gets COPD?
While smoking is the leading cause of COPD, non-smoking related causes are rising throughout the world, including exposure to environmental pollutants such as second-hand smoke and a genetic disorder called Alpha-1 anti-trypsin deficiency.  Women are particularly at risk of COPD because their airways are smaller.

Early detection is one of the keys to slowing the progression of COPD. 
The Lung Association is a registered charity that provides information and funding for research to improve lung health. We focus on prevention and control of asthma, chronic lung disease, tobacco cessation and prevention, air quality and its effects on lung health.

BreathWorks is made possible by unrestricted educational grants from AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Medigas/Praxair and Health Canada's Population Health Fund.

For more information about COPD and its management, its symptoms, its financial burden, free information that can help, or interviews with a patient with COPD and a respirologist, please access the b-roll on the national newswire. To arrange an interview with a medical professional or someone living with COPD, please call The Lung Association:

Stella Spanos
Lung Association
(306) 343-9511

Dr. Darcy Marciniuk, Professor
Division of Respiratory Medicine
Department of Medicine
University of Saskatoon,  Saskatoon, SK
Tel:  (306) 966-8298, Fax:  (306) 966-8694

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