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550 people to die today in Europe from preventable lung disease

On World Spirometry Day, doctors urge regular "MOT Tests for the Lungs"

With new data revealing 23 Europeans die each hour from a preventable lung condition, the European Respiratory Society (ERS) is calling on people across Europe to get their lungs tested on the first ever World Spirometry Day - 14th October.

Lung disease is the second biggest killer in Europe, and is rapidly becoming the third biggest cause of death worldwide.

With 550 Europeans predicted to die from lung disease today, doctors and nurses across the continent are championing spirometry testing as the only way to overcome the widespread under-diagnosis of serious lung conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The most prevalent and debilitating lung disease, COPD is under-diagnosed in 75% of cases, and global figures show half of patients remain un-diagnosed. Widespread under-diagnosis means sufferers only realise they have a serious lung disease once it is too late to prevent major damage, leaving them unable to carry on a healthy and active life. Women are as at risk as men, with those most at risk being over 40 and current or ex-smokers.

Regular and early lung testing helps people to identify potentially debilitating lung conditions before too much damage is done; giving them a chance to slow the disease's progression before it completely ruins their lung function - leading to an isolating, painful, and immobile later life.

Doctors and nurses are taking to the streets across the globe today to run hundreds of public lung testing events to raise awareness of spirometry testing - the most accurate way to reassure people that their lungs are healthy, or to identify any potential danger. Doctors have nicknamed spirometry testing "the MOT for your lungs," to remind people just how critical regular testing is.

"Living with a chronic lung condition can be no life at all," said European Respiratory Society President, Professor Marc Decramer. "In the same way we take our cars for regular engine checks, people need reminding that their lungs are the engines of their bodies. Taking regular tests to identify problems early can save millions from being forced to live large portions of their lives with painful, but preventable, conditions."

"In the time it takes to read this, someone will have died from a preventable lung disease in Europe," said Monica Fletcher, Chair of the European Lung Foundation. "Even scarier to consider are the millions of sufferers living with impaired quality of life because their conditions were not identified early enough. On World Spirometry Day we want people to know that their doctors' and nurses' are here to help - early testing is a positive first step and can dramatically improve outcomes. The message should be: don't be afraid to find out."

After being misdiagnosed with asthma for eight years, Leigh Wilkinson, 44 from Grimsby in the UK, was finally accurately diagnosed thanks to a spirometry test. "I am so grateful that I pushed my doctor to give me a spirometry test, which revealed that I had developed COPD and emphysema. I understand why people want to avoid learning about the damage they may be doing to themselves but when I took the plunge I did it as much for my family as myself and it's the best step I've ever taken," Leigh said.

World Spirometry Day is taking place as part of the Year of the Lung, a 2010 campaign to highlight the hundreds of millions of people who unnecessarily struggle for life and breath every day due to lung diseases.

For information about World Spirometry Day, and the testing events taking place in your area or across Europe, please visit: http://www.yearofthelung.org/wsd-events

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