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Simple Test Detects Early Signs of Lung Disease

Nov 19, 2014

  • New health figures show yet another increase in Ontarians with COPD
  • People at risk of breathing problems should get a spirometry test

Toronto, ON – With the release of new provincial health statistics showing another significant increase in the number of Ontarians with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the Ontario Lung Association urges people at risk of respiratory illness to take a simple test that detects lung disease in the early stages, when many may not even be aware they have a problem.

Spirometry is an effective, non-invasive test that measures lung function and helps to diagnose respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD. The patient simply inhales deeply and then blows hard into a machine.

“Spirometry is particularly important in diagnosing COPD in the early, mild stage when many people may not even be aware that their airflow is reduced,” said Dr. Anna Day, a respirologist at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto and an authority on the diagnosis and treatment of COPD. “The earlier the test is performed, the earlier lung disease can be detected and treated.”

A life and economic burden report undertaken by the Ontario Lung Association shows that making spirometry more readily available to high-risk individuals would significantly reduce the human suffering and economic impact of COPD in Ontario.

“Spirometry is underused in Ontario, mainly because health-care professionals require training and resources to administer the test and interpret the results,” said George Habib, president and CEO of the Ontario Lung Association. “Too many people have lung disease and don’t know it. Those people will endure needless suffering because they did not receive treatment early enough.”

COPD numbers continue to rise

New Ontario health statistics released this week show that the number of people with COPD is still increasing. In 2012, 869,645 Ontarians had been diagnosed with COPD – 11.4 per cent of people over the age of 35. That’s a 3.3 per cent increase over the 2011 figure (842,163) and a 15 per cent jump over four years earlier (2008) when there were 756,822 diagnosed cases of COPD in the province.

On World COPD Day – Wednesday, November 19 – the Ontario Lung Association is working with hospitals and health centres around the province to offer spirometry information, with some sites providing testing for staff and patients. The test is recommended for people over 40 who smoke or used to smoke, those who cough regularly, experience shortness of breath or wheezing during mild exertion, or get frequent colds that last longer than other people’s.

Spirometry awareness and COPD information services will be available at:

Greater Toronto Area
– Women’s College Hospital
– Toronto East General Hospital
– Toronto Western Hospital
– North York General Hospital
– Markham Stouffville Hospital
– Southlake Regional Health Centre

– Royal Victoria Hospital, Barrie
– North Bay Regional Health Centre
– Temiskaming Hospital, New Liskeard
– Kirkland and District Hospital, Kirkland Lake

– The Ottawa Hospital

About Spirometry
Spirometry is the most efficient way to accurately diagnose respiratory diseases such as COPD. It measures how much air you can blow out of your lungs and how fast you can blow it out.  The patient takes a big breath and then blows as hard and long as he/she can into a machine that measures lung function. The earlier spirometry is performed, the earlier lung disease can be detected and treated, improving quality of life and potentially slowing down the progression of the disease.  Watch a video about spirometry at www.youtube.com/ONLungAssociation

About COPD
COPD is a serious and progressive respiratory disease that causes lung damage and blocks the airways. The main symptoms are shortness of breath, persistent cough and difficulty performing daily tasks. COPD is sometimes referred to as emphysema or chronic bronchitis and is primarily caused by smoking; however, up to 20 per cent of COPD cases are caused by other factors such as air pollution, lung infections and a genetic disorder.

About the Ontario Lung Association
The Lung Association is a registered charity that assists, educates and empowers individuals living with or caring for others with lung disease. The Lung Association provides programs and services to patients and health-care providers, invests in lung research and campaigns for improved policies on lung health. Information about lung health issues is available through the Lung Health Information Line 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) or at info@on.lung.ca.




Contact:  John Chenery 416-864-9911 ext. 292 | Cell: 647-293-9911 | jchenery@on.lung.ca