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It is never too early, never too late for COPD diagnosis and treatment: The Forum of International Respiratory Societies

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a preventable and treatable disease that causes breathlessness, chronic sputum production and cough, there are 251 million current cases of COPD in the world. COPD is currently the 3rd leading cause of death globally and is highly prevalent in low resource countries. Exposure to tobacco smoke and other inhaled toxic particles and gases are the main risk factors for COPD, although recent research has identified that suboptimal lung growth before and after birth can also increase the risk of COPD later in life.

World COPD Day is an annual global initiative run by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), who are members of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS).

This year, the 17th annual World COPD Day will take place on 21 November. The theme “never too early, never too late” emphasises that COPD can originate early in life (therefore, early diagnosis and intervention is key) as well as that it is never too late for diagnosis and treatment.

“The early stages of COPD are often unrecognised. This is partly because they are not considered in infancy and, partly because many older individuals discount their symptoms such as breathlessness, chronic cough, and bringing up phlegm as a normal part of getting older or an expected consequence of cigarette smoking.”, states Prof. Alvar Agusti (Spain), Chair of the GOLD Board of Directors.

COPD is diagnosed with a breathing test called spirometry. This test is easy to perform, non-invasive and painless, it only takes a few minutes. Finding cases early on is very important to prevent disease progression, and this approach may reduce the burden of disease and mortality rates in future. Increasing public knowledge of COPD, specifically prevention strategies, is enormously important. People with chronic breathlessness of any type, or cough and sputum production should have a spirometry test.

Initiatives to reduce the burden of COPD are taking place worldwide, including smoking cessation programmes, fighting against both indoor and outdoor air pollution, as well as examining childhood disadvantage factors (such as parental smoking, lung infections and uncontrolled asthma).

Although there is no current cure for COPD, action can take place at every stage of the disease. It is never too early to diagnose lung dysfunction and intervene prophylactically and therapeutically; and it is never too late to stop smoking and start fighting the disease and its consequences. Currently available therapies can alleviate the symptoms of breathlessness, cough and sputum production, and disease flare-ups.

Improved COPD prevention, early diagnosis and appropriate interventions will contribute to "ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages" which is one of the most important United Nations (UN) 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Download the fact sheet and find out more, here

About the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS)

The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is an organisation comprised of the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally: American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latino Americana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD).

The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally.