Many people now recognise the need to be concerned by a lump in their breast, or a pain in their chest. But sadly, millions of people are still dismissing the signs of lung disease, giving it time to progress and rob them of their health.
What if you got breathless doing the things you use to do effortlessly, like taking a short walk, or going upstairs? Would you assume you were just getting unfit? If so, you're not alone. Fewer than half the people in our survey said they'd feel concerned by this kind of breathlessness.[i]
The problem with this is that every day breathlessness is one of the most common signs of lung disease, which has been identified as one of the biggest killers in the UK.
Today is World COPD Day, and an opportunity for us all to help find the millions of people who are living with an undiagnosed lung condition called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a life-long condition that makes it difficult to empty air out of your lungs because the airways have been narrowed. It gives a feeling of being out of breath that can be mild, or so severe that a person needs to be on constant oxygen.
Living like this can be hard, sometimes isolating as you stop doing the things you use to do, but nobody has to do so without support. Early diagnosis is also key to stopping further damage to the lungs, as once damage has occurred, it's irreversible.
Though 1.2 million people in the UK are diagnosed with COPD, research has indicated that up to two thirds are living without a diagnosis.[ii] You can make the positive step to check your lung health this World COPD Day, and to take care of your family and friends. If you're experiencing sudden breathlessness whilst doing non-strenuous tasks, take five minutes out of your day to take this simple test www.blf.org.uk/breathtest. It'll either reassure you nothing is wrong, or let you know that you should speak to your GP.
Even if you're fine, one of the undiagnosed millions may very well be someone you know or love. A tweet or a Facebook post from you could be the thing that helps them.
Slowly but surely, we'll keep finding and helping people with COPD, but these patients desperately need the government to establish an independent taskforce for lung health. We discovered earlier this year that there has been no improvement in deaths from lung disease in over 10 years - it's killed the equivalent of one person every five minutes, for over a decade.
Taskforces for both cancer and mental health were established in 2015 to transform the lives of people living with these conditions. Prevention, early diagnosis, disease management, improvements to care, and long term quality of life, are just as essential to improving outcomes for people with lung disease - they deserve the same.
Find out more about getting involved in World COPD Day here. For help and support, call the BLF Helpline on 03000 030 555.
[i] Based on survey of 1,050 people by MRUK for the British Lung Foundation in 2015
[ii] The Battle for Breath, May 2016, British Lung Foundation