Smoking-related lung disease rising in women
Aug. 1 â€” The rate of emphysema is growing rapidly in the United States, especially among women, report federal health officials. And for the first time, women have edged past men in deaths from the debilitating lung condition.
LAVERTA ODEGAARD started smoking at 17, continued for 40 years and now she can walk only when breathing with an oxygen tank.
â€œItâ€™s the most depressing thing, itâ€™s confining, itâ€™s embarrassing, it hurts. Itâ€™s not the way I wanted to spend my golden senior years,â€ Odegaard said.
Odegaard has emphysema and severe bronchitis â€” conditions that often go together. The figures released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal a massive public health problem caused by smoking.
Ten million Americans have been diagnosed with the lung disease and another 14 million have it but donâ€™t know it yet.
The death rate is increasing dramatically â€” especially among women â€” because so many took up smoking after the 1940s.
In 1980, emphysema killed 16,000 women and 37,000 men. In 2000, it killed 60,000 women and 59,000 men.
â€œThis is a silent epidemic that we are now just beginning to bring to light and have the public recognizeâ€ said Dr. Barry Make of National Jewish Medical and Research Center.
Everyone knows that smoking increases the risk for lung cancer.
â€œI think the public is more attuned with a fear of cancer of any organ, and thatâ€™s why most the lay public identifies lung cancer as the major risk of cigarette smoking,â€ said Dr. Stuart Garay of New York University Medical Center.
But doctors point out that emphysema causes almost as many deaths â€” and perhaps even more misery because it can linger for years.
In the condition, the air sacs and tubes in the lungs are slowly destroyed. So eventually the lungs become like old worn-out balloons, barely able to take in and let out air.
But there is one piece of good news: When caught early with a simple breath test, the condition can be treated with medications â€” and sometimes surgery. But the latest statistics confirm the enormous toll of sickness and death from this common disease of smoking.