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CT Scans May Pick Up COPD Early in Smokers
Date:10/25/2011

to correctly predict COPD 76 percent of the time, the researchers reported.

This included men with mild, moderate and severe COPD, they noted.

"Among men who were current or former heavy smokers, undergoing lung cancer screening with CT scanning identified a substantial proportion who had COPD, suggesting that this method may be helpful as an additional tool in detecting COPD," de Jong said.

Dr. Neil Schachter, medical director of the respiratory care department at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said heavy smokers should be screened for COPD.

"The question is, is CT a useful way to screen for COPD," he said. "On the one hand, you are using an expensive tool to make a diagnosis that you could make with a simpler, cheaper tool, namely spirometry."

However, with CT scans becoming a standard screen for diagnosing lung cancer, it might make sense to also use it to diagnose COPD, he said.

A study in the June 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that annual low-dose CT scans cut the death rate from lung cancer by 20 percent in heavy smokers and formerly heavy smokers, compared with those who get annual chest X-rays.

"Lung cancer [detection] with CT scans is poised to take off. It may take off like a flash or it may crash and burn, we don't know that yet," he said. "If people are going to have this test anyway, then it would make sense that they be screened for COPD," Schachter said. "But there are a lot of ifs here."

Schachter noted that COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and of the 25 million with the condition only half know they have it. Diagnosing COPD early means earlier treatment and better outcomes, he said.

More information

For more on COPD, visit the U.S. Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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