Countryfile presenter Charlotte Smith, 57, opened up about her diagnosis with Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), which is a rare lung disease. The star candidly discussed her health concerns after being told the shocking news by doctors that she could only have 10 years left to live in an interview from back in 2016.
Charlotte explained to The Mirror that she sought medical advice when she “started feeling breathless” following her brother’s wedding in 2010.
Charlotte said in the interview: “I saw a specialist at London’s University College Hospital and an MRI scan identified multiple cystic air spaces in both lungs. They realised it was LAM.
“LAM is the abnormal growth of smooth muscle cells, especially in the lungs, which can lead to loss of lung functions. In the States, it’s classed as similar to cancer but grows very slowly in comparison to lung cancer.”
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LAM is found almost exclusively in women, said Medline Plus.
The health site continued: “It often occurs as a feature of an inherited syndrome called tuberous sclerosis complex.
“When LAM occurs alone it is called isolated or sporadic LAM.
“Signs and symptoms of LAM most often appear during a woman’s thirties.
“Affected women have an overgrowth of abnormal-like cells (LAM cells) in the lungs, resulting in the formation of lung cysts and the destruction of normal lung tissue.
“They may also have an accumulation of fluid in the cavity around the lungs (chylothorax).”
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LAM occurs in approximately 30 percent of women with tuberous sclerosis complex.
Sporadic LAM, which occurs without tuberous sclerosis complex, is estimated to affect 3.3 to 7.4 per million women worldwide.
This condition may be underdiagnosed because its symptoms are similar to those of other lung disorders such as asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“When I heard I probably had this very rare, potentially serious disease with an unpronounceable name I went into shock,” Charlotte said.
“The doctor was honest and told me all the stats, including it being 10 years, on average, between diagnosis and needing a lung transplant – or even death.
“He went on to say that this was the worst-case scenario and probably wouldn’t be me. But all I could focus on was the thought that I could die in 10 years.”
Lymphangioleiomyomatosis manifests itself in a wide variety of ways, so it is sometimes difficult to diagnose, explained the LAM Foundation.
It added: “The difficulty of the diagnosis is compounded by the fact that many of the symptoms of LAM are similar to those of other lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis.
“Chest x-rays are not usually sufficient to detect LAM, but high-resolution chest CT scans can detect the characteristic cystic structure of LAM, thus providing an accurate diagnosis especially if other manifestations of the disease (e.g., benign kidney tumour, lung collapse, or fluid in the lungs) are present.”