Lung cancer specialists in Vienna have warned that for many people the disease is a death sentence, and that this most fatal form of cancer has a huge global death toll.

Lung cancer fatal for many Austrians

Speaking ahead of the Central European Lung Cancer Conference which begins in Vienna on Saturday, medical experts called for effective smoking bans, therapy to break addictions, and said that CT screening examinations for early detection are the most effective means of dealing with the problem.

In Austria 4,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, and there has been a strong increase in the number of women diagnosed. At present only 15 percent of patients can be cured, lung cancer specialist Robert Pirker from Vienna General Hospital said.

Fellow specialist Andrea Mohn-Staudner said Austria is flagging behind the rest of Europe in measures to prevent smoking. Forty percent of the population smokes, bringing the country towards the bottom of European rankings.

Mohn-Staudner said this was “shameful” and called for a total smoking ban in restaurants, cafes and bars. She said that even Austria’s neighbour Hungary, traditionally a smokers’ paradise, fared better.

A partial smoking ban came into force in Austria in January 2009, but the list of exceptions was long.

Pirker said that smoking is a huge problem worldwide, with 5,000 people dying from it every day, 1.5 million per year, and 500 million expected to die from it this century.

Smoking is the main cause, with 85 percent of lung cancer patients either smokers or former smokers. The habit kills as many people as if 40 jumbo jets were to crash each day, something Pirker said no government would allow to happen.