To improve these figures, experts agree on the importance of diagnosing the disease in its early stages and on launching a screening program for, above all, patients at greater risk of developing lung cancer, like smokers. “Screening programs that include diagnosis based on the use of low-radiation CT scanning show improved survival rates, as patients at higher risk of getting this type of tumor are selected”, explains Dr. Allan C. Sam, MD Anderson Madrid pulmonologist.
To respond to this need, MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid has launched the ‘Early Lung Cancer Diagnosis Consultation’, an integral screening program coordinated by a multidisciplinary team with ample experience and combined with a Stop Smoking Program.
During the consultation, a pulmonary assessment will be made that includes pulmonary function tests, that also allow other smoking-related diseases to be detected; the patient’s family history and the patient’s own smoking history is studied to determine the risk of a tumor appearing.
European guidelines recommend that a lung cancer screening program be based on two fundamental pillars: age and smoking history. In terms of age, those patients aged between 55 and 80 are selected. In terms of smoking history, both active smokers and those who have stopped smoking in the last 15 years are considered at risk.
“If a person meets the criteria for inclusion in the screening program, a low-radiation CT scan and spirometry tests will then be carried out. In addition, it is always recommended the patient stop smoking and in the case of there being a risk factor, monitoring of the patient is prescribed”, explains the pulmonologist.
Beyond the low-radiation CT scan
Although the CT scan is the most common diagnostic measure used in screening for lung cancer, specialists remind us that it should not be the only one. Appropriate screening of someone at risk of developing the disease must go beyond this test and be linked to a pulmonology check, respiratory function tests and a specific consultation on stopping smoking.
“In less than a week after the initial consultation, we see the patient again to explain the results and his/her risk factor of developing lung cancer in the future”, says Dr. Sam.
Furthermore, beyond the diagnosis, this new MD Anderson Madrid service also aims to foment people stopping smoking. For that reason, all patients attending the consultation are given information on the importance of giving up smoking with the help of the Integral Tobacco Addiction Treatment Unit at the hospital.
“We know that giving up tobacco is a very difficult decision because, although there is a physical dependency on nicotine, there is also a psychological and emotional dependency. That is why we want to help every patient, from a multidisciplinary perspective, to improve their health and avoid the appearance of cancer”, concludes Dr. Sam.