Lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scans is effective at picking up other undiagnosed lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - according to new research presented at the British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting.
The research, undertaken by a consortium led by 'Lungs for Living', UCL Respiratory, University College London, collected data as part of a 'Lung Screen Uptake Trial' where smokers and former smokers who had quit within the last five years, aged 60-75, were invited to a 'lung health check' via the GP.
COPD is the name for a group of lung diseases that narrow the airways causing breathing difficulties. COPD inflicts a huge toll on patients, their carers, and on the NHS. In total, 1.2 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with COPD. There are 30,000 deaths from the disease in the UK each year.
CT scans and data were collected to analyse any changes to scans that suggested COPD and how these related to patients' pre-existing diagnoses, spirometry test results (a key breathing test that can help diagnose COPD) and their smoking status.
More than a third (38.5%) of people who had been screened displayed signs of undiagnosed COPD.
Commenting on the research, Dr Carolyn Horst, Radiology Registrar and researcher at University College London, said:
"This study is significant in showing us that lung cancer screening offers an opportunity to check whether a patient is showing signs of undiagnosed COPD as well as lung cancer. Many of the individuals in the study with these undiagnosed lung diseases were smokers, and their health was often worsening due to their tobacco dependence.
"Looking to the future, it shows that screening can be an even more pivotal time to offer smoking cessation advice and support. Quitting smoking is often the best treatment for COPD and can help prevent further progression of disease, providing a better quality of life."
Dr Lisa Davies, Consultant Respiratory Physician at Aintree University Hospital and Chair of the British Thoracic Society Board, added:
"This is an important study as earlier diagnosis is key to providing the most effective treatment for many lung conditions.
"It shows how the NHS can really maximise on existing tests to diagnose other lung conditions earlier and then take the opportunity to provide often life-enhancing stop smoking advice and support."