The best screening test for COPD or lung cancer would be a plain chest x-ray. If clear, sputum cytology should be done and, if at all suspicious, a CT scan of the lungs would be next. In either event, regardless of the results of the previous testing, the next major concern would be to assess the damage to your lungs from the cigarette smoke. That would best be done by a pulmonary function tests (PFTs) to measure any loss of function.
Just a comment regarding my personal experience: A Pulmonary Function Test which can be ordered by your Primary Care Physician would certainly tell the tale (so to speak). I did for me. A chest X-ray can also show an indication of early obstructive lung disease.
I just joined this board and asked a question below about the EBT scan results I recently received. I'm no expert so don't do anything based on my input. In any event, a non-hospital affilated company in the area I live advertises heart and other scans - including full body scans. They use an EBT CT scanner - which supposedly subjects you to substantially less radiation than a normal CT scan. It seems as if most doctors are not recommending EBT scans as early screening tests yet. However, the numbers are increasing for those that do recommend them for individuals who are at greater risk for developing related problems. For example, if you were a heavy smoker for many years (or have been and still are), an increasing number of physicians are recommending screening tests like EBT's. By the time lung cancer shows up on an x-ray, it's usually the size of an orange and you have around a 15% chance of being around for five years. An EBT scan can supposedly identify lung cancer as small as a grain of rice - and - when found at that stage, your odds are almost the reciprocal of the above - you have over an 80% chance of surviving more than 5 years. To me, the radiation exposure was worth my knowledge of whether something was lurking inside me. Unfortunately, the scan identifed emphysema - hopefully at an early stage.
Sorry, when I said about lung cancer being the size of an orange by the time it shows up on an x-ray I left something important out. What I read that by the time someone has symptoms of lung cancer and decides to go in for an x-ray, it is usually already at an advanced stage. If one were to go in for an annual physical and have an x-ray, I'm am sure possible cancer would be identified much sooner - I don't think as soon however, as it would on a scan.
I 40 yrs old and have been a smoker for 20 years and have recently been experiencing alot of shortness of breath. I just had a lung e-ray wich showed normal volume, bronchials e.t.c. however diffuse intersticial fibrosis between level to moderate. Also, the image showed enlarged aorta for my age. I got the x-ray and analysis done in Mexico ( I live on the border in AZ ) because I don't have Health insurance ( make to much to get Medicaid and too little to afford it )
Is it possible for the cloudiness in the lower lobes to NOT be pulmonary fibrosis and simply the damage from 20 years of smoking ?
Is it possible that my shortness of breath can come from a "level to moderate" level of fibrosis ? or something else ?
Is it possible that the "hypertension" of the heart can cause the shortness ?
AND, is it possible that there is something TREATABLE that can give me some breathing back ?????????
Very interested in input !!!