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Burden of lung disease

Lung disease is now the UK’s biggest killer, accounting for one in four deaths, more than cancer or coronary heart disease. The key issue is that the diversity of lung disease has yet to be recognised.// While other serious conditions have specialists who deal only in one disorder, chest physicians look after everything from lung cancer to chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder(COPD), asthma, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis and sleep apnoea. There are some 30 or 40 respiratory conditions.

As a result, lung disease, on the whole, has not been high enough up the government’s list of priorities. Lung cancer, which accounts for a quarter of lung disease cases, has overtaken breast cancer as the leading cancer killer of women. Stopping promotion of tobacco is key to preventing lung cancer.

Researchers say that 93% of people with lung cancer will be dead within five years. The best chance they’ve got is surgical resection – for which the UK has one of the lowest rates. This may be because the UK has a relatively elderly population with lung cancer – risks of surgery are greater with age and associated conditions like heart disease. Or it may be that people present with symptoms too late for the disease to be treated surgically.

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