A population-based analysis of spirometry use and the prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in lung cancer


Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer are associated diseases. COPD is underdiagnosed and thus undertreated, but there is limited data on COPD diagnosis in the setting of lung cancer. We assessed the diagnosis of COPD with lung cancer in a large public healthcare system.

Methods: Anonymous administrative data was acquired from ICES, which links demographics, hospital records, physician billing, and cancer registry data in Ontario, Canada. Individuals age 35 or older with COPD were identified through a validated, ICES-derived cohort and spirometry use was derived from physician billings. Statistical comparisons were made using Wilcoxon rank sum, Cochran-Armitage, and chi-square tests.

Results: From 2002 to 2014, 756,786 individuals were diagnosed with COPD, with a 2014 prevalence of 9.3%. Of these, 51.9% never underwent spirometry. During the same period, 105,304 individuals were diagnosed with lung cancer, among whom COPD was previously diagnosed in 34.9%. Having COPD prior to lung cancer was associated with lower income, a rural dwelling, a lower Charlson morbidity score, and less frequent stage IV disease (48 vs 54%, p < 0.001). Spirometry was more commonly undertaken in early stage disease (90.6% in stage I-II vs. 54.4% in stage III-IV).

Conclusion: Over a third of individuals with lung cancer had a prior diagnosis of COPD. Among individuals with advanced lung cancer, greater use of spirometry and diagnosis of COPD may help to mitigate respiratory symptoms.