While it is well-known that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a significant risk factor for lung cancer, with approximately 1% of COPD patients developing the cancer each year, a recent study has shown that the early detection of COPD is instrumental in picking up more cases of lung cancer in COPD patients.
The study, which was published in the European Respiratory Journal, found that patients with COPD had a fivefold increased risk of developing lung cancer. Researchers discovered this increased risk through a review of medical evidence, with findings sufficient to justify CT screening for lung cancer among those diagnosed with COPD.
While low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) is an effective procedure for the early detection of lung cancer in high-risk patients, determining which patients should be screened for the cancer in a primary care setting is difficult. However, researchers now believe that patients who have been diagnosed with COPD should be screened by CT scan to detect lung cancer at an early stage. Further, the lung function of former and active smokers should be routinely tested to help identify COPD at an early stage.
Researchers propose that for the prevention of both diseases, COPD screening in smokers should be initiated as early as possible, so that they can stop smoking and candidates for an efficient lung cancer screening program can be identified.
“Both COPD and lung cancer have high mortality rates and a serious economic impact worldwide,” said study leader Yasuo Sekine, an associate profession at Tokyo Women’s Medical University. “The findings from our analysis suggest that early detection of COPD in addition to lung cancer screening for these patients could be an effective detection technique for lung cancer.”