The Lung Disease Center and the Altoona Lung Specialists were the first in our area to formally adopt an Early Detection Program (EDP) for lung cancer, utilizing and based on statistics from a large national study that showed an improvement in survival in lung cancer patients if their disease was discovered early. Patients who had smoked for 30 pack years or more and were between age 55 and 75 were deemed at significant risk for developing lung cancer, and because this disease is initially asymptomatic, a plan for early detection was needed.
Most physicians now agree that screening for lung cancer in this vulnerable population is the right thing to do. Supporting this belief is the fact that the mortality for the most common form of lung cancer has shown some measurable decline. What seems to be less appreciated is that this same high risk group also has a high incidence of COPD. In fact, because of this association, COPD is felt to be a risk factor for lung cancer in any age group.
Given these facts, it is reasonable to consider pulmonary function studies in anyone in a lung cancer early detection program. The converse is equally true, namely, anyone with COPD should be in a lung cancer early detection program. If you currently have a diagnosis of COPD, ask about being followed in a lung cancer early detection program. If you are currently being followed in a lung cancer early detection program, ask about pulmonary function testing.