Answering 3 Key Questions About Lung Health Here and Abroad
Advocacy Lung disease extends far beyond cigarettes and cancer. As our panel of experts explain in detail, respiratory disorders impact more people — in more ways — than you probably realized.
What’s the biggest development in the respiratory community from the last five years?
Larry Gerrans: The publication of the National Lung Screening Trial in the New England Journal of Medicine, and the corresponding support for reimbursement for lung screening by Medicare and all private insurers. Lung screening will now provide over 55 million Americans the opportunity to have their lungs screened for cancer, adjunctive to the prostate examinations, breast examinations and colonoscopies they are already receiving. Considering lung cancer is the deadliest of all cancers, this is fantastic development for the health and vitality of all Americans.
Tonya Winders: Advances in medications have helped transform severe asthma treatment. Biologics can target cells and pathways that cause bronchoconstriction and allergic inflammation linked to asthma. They allow doctors to get a window into the patient as an individual and can lead to a gradual reduction in asthma symptoms.
The emergence of breath-actuated inhalers, also known as smart inhalers, has simplified how patients take their quick relief or daily controller medications. Breath-actuated inhalers release the medication when the user breathes in. This ensures the medicine gets deep into the lungs more effectively.
What’s the most common misconception regarding respiratory diseases today?
LG: That they are somehow self-inflicted due to smoking. Lung cancer should no longer be a disease of shame. The data bears out the facts that nearly 17 percent of all women who get lung cancer never smoked. There are a wide variety of factors that lead to lung cancer and respiratory disease.
'“The data bears out the facts that nearly 17 percent of all women who get lung cancer never smoked.”'
TW: We take breath for granted. Many do not realize that CDC lists respiratory diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as the third leading cause of death in the United States. About 10 people each day die from asthma and millions more are affected by it — whether it’s through missed school or work days, or the inability to participate fully in daily activities. All asthma should be regarded as serious and any flare can turn life-threatening within seconds.
What is something that you wish more people knew regarding respiratory health?
LG: It is important for people to recognize that respiratory diseases can and will impact them, directly or indirectly, in their lifetimes. The sheer numbers are staggering. The World Health Organization (WHO) and a wide variety of industry and trade groups publish on these numbers every year. Consider the fact that at least 2 billion people are exposed to the toxic effects of biomass fuel consumption and that another 2 billion people are exposed to outdoor air pollution and tobacco smoke and it is little wonder that 4 million people die, prematurely, every year from chronic respiratory diseases.
On a global scale, nearly 1.5 million people die from lung cancer and over 334 million people suffer from asthma. More than 200 million people are struggling with moderate to severe COPD. Approximately 1 out of every 6 of our fellow Americans currently suffer from some kind of respiratory disease. And I will leave you with this sobering fact: 9,000,000 children under age 5 die annually and lung diseases are the most common causes of these deaths. Pneumonia is the world’s leading killer of young children. Globally, 14 percent of all children struggle with asthma.
'“When you understand what’s happening inside your lungs … you and your health care team can decide on the best treatment”'
TW: You can live a full life, free from symptoms or limitations if well controlled. If you have asthma, it’s critical to work with your doctor to develop an Asthma Action Plan that details how to manage the disease and respond if breathing is impaired. The goal of treatment is to prevent and minimize symptoms, with no limitation of daily activity while using the least amount of medication possible.
What are the most important steps for those at risk or already living with a respiratory disease to take?
LG: Go get a lung screening and hang in there. Help is on the way. Pulmonary disease treatment is in its infancy. Today, the industry is where cardiology was in the early 1990s. The sector has been largely under-funded and overlooked, given how complex lung anatomy and the corresponding regulatory pathway is.
That has stimulated the best experts from across industry, science, finance and our government to endeavor in meaningful collaborations to improve access and reduce the humanitarian and cost burdens of chronic pulmonary disease on the U.S. and global GDP. There is a ton of momentum in the industry bringing cutting-edge solutions to this vital anatomy of the body.
TW: The first step is an accurate diagnosis. This begins with a conversation with your doctor along, with a physical exam and spirometry test. If the diagnosis is asthma, your Asthma Action Plan should include prescription medications, such as a quick-relief inhaler and a daily controller medication.
Then, work with a health care professional to get a better understanding of the disease and take steps to avoid what triggers your respiratory symptoms, from pollen and mold to pets and smoke. When you understand what’s happening inside your lungs, and how they respond to allergens and irritants, you and your health care team can decide on the best treatment option.