Evaluation & Screening

Asthma

If you experience symptoms of asthma, your doctor will begin with a basic physical exam and a medical history; he or she will want to know if asthma runs in your family, if you smoke, if you experience any allergies, and if you are regularly exposed to any air pollutants or chemicals that may trigger lung problems.

In addition to the physical exam, your physician may administer a spirometry test and ask you to blow into a device that will measure the amount and speed of the air leaving your lungs. Other tests may be indicated, especially if your doctor suspects you may have another condition (such as COPD or emphysema) with symptoms similar to asthma.

Emphysema/COPD

If you have symptoms or believe you are at risk for COPD, you should be tested for the disease. The most common test is spirometry, a simple test of how well your lungs work. The test involves blowing air into a mouthpiece; the attached machine will then measure the amount of air you blow and how fast you blow it. This is a simple method for your doctor to determine the strength and performance of your lungs.

You may also be given a chest x-ray or CT scan.

Sleep apnea

Most often, your physician can make a diagnosis of sleep apnea based on your symptoms. If you believe you have sleep apnea, let your doctor know so he or she can help. Sleep apnea can lead to further health problems as it interferes with your body’s sleep patterns. You might also be referred to a sleep specialist, who will test you while you sleep for blood oxygen level; heart, lung, and brain activity; breathing patterns; and arm and leg movement.

Lung Cancer

Screening is when your doctor looks for cancer even when no symptoms are present. This can help diagnose the cancer at an early stage, when it is easier to treat. If you are considered high risk for developing lung cancer, your doctor may recommend you be screened regularly. This screening normally involves a chest x-ray or CT scan.

If you are not a candidate for screening, you should do what you can to reduce your risk of lung cancer by not smoking, avoiding secondhand smoke, and taking care to evaluate the air you breathe for harmful chemicals and pollution. Find out more about risk factors and the causes of lung cancer.