Press Article: Killer disease like an iceberg
Killer disease like an iceberg
Almost one person in 20 in the North East is thought to suffer from a lung disease that could become the biggest killer in the country over the next decade.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - commonly known as COPD - is an umbrella term for a number of respiratory conditions including bronchitis and emphysema.
It leads to progressive, irreversible lung disease which kills around 30,000 people a year in the UK - more than breast, bowel or prostate cancer.
A number of events will take place across the North East on World COPD Day next week – November 16 – to raise awareness of the disease.
Professor Paul Corris is joint respiratory lead for NHS North East, together with Sharon Haggerty, and supports health professionals, managers and commissioners to work with patients across the region.
He said: “The number of people diagnosed with COPD in the North East is considerably higher than the national average - 2.4% compared to 1.6% nationally.
“Some areas are higher than this, with 2.9% of people in Sunderland and some parts of Teesside reaching 2.6%.
“But the disease is like an iceberg. Only a small proportion of patients have been identified and we know many more lie under the surface that have the symptoms but are not yet diagnosed.
“So the real number of people with COPD in the North East is more likely to be 4.9% of the population.”
Smoking is the biggest cause of the disease. A campaign called Every Breath launched by Fresh – Smoke Free North East with backing from rock star Sting and support from the British Lung Foundation aims to encourage more people to quit.
World COPD Day is an annual event and a global effort to boost understanding of COPD and raise awareness of the disease.
It is now a Department of Health priority in this country. Prof. Corris and his colleagues aim to:
• reduce variation in the service across the region for people with respiratory disease
• improve access to primary and secondary healthcare services for acute and chronic respiratory care
• work with patients and their carers to enable them to manage their condition
• raise the profile of respiratory disease and services and improve communication with patients, providers and commissioners.
Prof Corris added: “COPD threatens to be the most important cause of mortality in the next decade. We all must do our best to stop this epidemic.”
This year the British Lung Foundation's theme for World COPD Day is Get Tested. More details can be found on their website at www.lunguk.org or by calling the northern office on 0191 263 0276.
Ken Smith, 60, of Shannon Way, Skerne Park, Darlington, suffers with severe COPD. He said: “Living with COPD is best described as a living nightmare that I can’t wake up from. It has affected my quality of life in so many ways.
“I stopped smoking 13 years ago when I was diagnosed with COPD. I get so breathless that I find it difficult to do normal day to day things. I suffer from frequent chest infections and each one leaves me in a worse state than before. If people who smoke had my lungs to live with for 24 hours, I would be certain that they would stop smoking straight away.”
Events are being held on across the region on November 16 including:
Dolphin Centre, Darlington – Respiratory nurses offering advice and information on COPD and offering free lung function tests to Fit-Lab participants and the general public. Stop smoking advisor also on hand.
North Tees General Hospital, Stockton – Respiratory nurses offering advice and information on COPD.
Central Library, Hartlepool – Respiratory nurses offering advice and information on COPD and free lung function tests. Stop smoking cessation advisor also on hand.
Molineux Centre, Byker – Respiratory nurses holding stall offering advice and information on COPD.
Asda, South Shields - Respiratory nurses offering advice and information on COPD as well as free lung function tests.
A total of 140 pharmacies across County Durham are taking up the challenge of improving COPD and asthma awareness and will be promoting this on World COPD Day and throughout December.