Ninety percent of people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) developed the disease due to tobacco use or exposure to secondhand smoke, National Taiwan University Principal and lung cancer specialist Yang Pan-chyr (楊泮池) said yesterday at a John Tung Foundation press launch of its online COPD self-assessment.
Yang said 80 percent of smokers have little knowledge of the threat of COPD posed by smoking, with only a small portion of them actually seeking medical attention.
The foundation said the symptoms were a chronic cough, frequent mucus production and shortness of breath after exertion. COPD is linked to repeated lung infections caused by smoking, environmental pollution and toxic substances emitted from coal burning.
“All these factors would lead to the narrowing of the airway, which would block the airflow and cause breathing difficulty,” Yang said. “Many people afflicted by the disease mistake it for asthma, which is different from COPD in being caused by allergens instead of permanent damage to the airways.”
COPD can be accompanied by cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes or other systemic conditions, significantly compromising the quality of life, said the foundation, adding that by quitting smoking and with early treatment, the impact of the disease can be reduced.
People aged 40 and over with a history of smoking or exposure to chemical substances, powders or other air pollutants should have routine tests for early detection.