Cases of chronic lung disease and lung cancer are rapidly on the rise in India, remaining mostly undiagnosed until it is too late, experts say. Doctors say changing lifestyles, smoking and air pollution have alarmingly raised the number of lung problems. “There is a huge increase in the number of lung cancer and other lung diseases cases,” Harit Chaturvedi, chief consultant and director (Surgical Oncology) at Max hospital here, told IANS. ”Usually the peak age when one faces a lung cancer attack is the 50s and 60s,” he said. The doctors are still unsure why Indians are hit at least 10 years before their western counterparts.
Along with cancer, cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) that causes acute breathing problems are also on the rise, especially among smokers. ”Currently, India has close to 24 million ( 1 in 50 people) COPD cases which are expected to increase by 34 per cent to 32 million by 2020,” said Vivek Nangia, additional director and head, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj. Men too seem to be hit more by COPD. ”The number of men with COPD is approximately 14.11 million, one and a half times more than the number of women in 2010 which was approximately 9.57 million,” he says.
According to Nangia, smoking is the primary cause of COPD, also causing cancer in long run. ”Most COPD patients are ex or current smokers who experience morning cough and sputum, the intensity of which gradually increases over the years,” he says. “It may pose serious limitations in daily activities of the sufferer.” he adds.
The biggest issue however remains that lung problems are often ignored and go undiagnosed due to lack of information. ”Symptoms like cough, blood in sputum and irritation in throat often get ignored because these are common symptoms,” says Chaturvedi.
The doctor adds that smokers in general, who are older than 40, should go for yearly X-rays to check the situation of their lungs. ”Quitting smoking is the best option but even reducing the number of cigarettes one smokes in a day can make a big difference,” he says.