Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a condition that thousands of people in the UK, and many more all around the world, must cope with every day. COPD is a blanket term that covers a range of conditions, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent coughing, and restricted ability to perform simple tasks. Now, a UK organization called Breathe Easy is hoping to make the lives of people who suffer from COPD a lot more bearable.
â€œAt the start of the program, I believed I shouldnâ€™t walk more than 50 yards at a time. By the end of the course, I had the confidence to walk a quarter of a mile around the field behind my house,â€ says Breathe Easy group chairman Barry Chawner, who is also a COPD sufferer.
Chawner describes COPD as a burden, saying â€œItâ€™s difficult as you canâ€™t necessarily do the things you used to do and if you can do them, they take a lot longer. It is restrictive. A lot of people suffer from anxiety as a result â€“ that feeling of being breathless and not being able to catch your breath can be scary. Itâ€™s frightening when you canâ€™t breathe, but my way of coping is not to accept it is frightening, but is simply your brain telling you need to breathe.â€
Thousands of UK citizens live with the disease, but some estimates believe that thousands more are living with undiagnosed cases of COPD. The Breathe Easy campaign has local chapters throughout the UK. As part of the British Lung Foundationâ€™s Breathe Easy Week, medical professionals are urging people to consider the health of their lungs. COPD can be caused by smoking, exposure to industrial environments, carbon, and asbestos. Asbestos is also linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma, a fatal cancer that is also a very serious health concern in the UK.
The profile of a typical COPD patient does not necessarily mimic that of a mesothelioma cancer sufferer. Mesothelioma is most commonly diagnosed when an individual is well into their sixties or seventies, and few women develop the disease, although the rate of mesothelioma in women has increased in recent years.