Veterans Affairs Expands Access to Lung Cancer Screening

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation seek to increase lung cancer screening among veterans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) last week announced a partnership with the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation to expand access to lung cancer screening for US veterans, according to a press release.

Overseas, veterans may be exposed to harsh environmental factors that may increase the risk of lung cancer, making early screening important. The Lung Cancer Alliance also reports that veterans have a higher incidence of lung cancer and have a lower survival rate compared with the civilian population.

Experts both within and outside the VA helped create the VA-Partnership to increase Access to Lung Screening (VA-PALS), according to the release.

The goal of VA-PALS is to develop an early detection program to prevent unnecessary morality. When diagnosed early, 80% of lung cancer cases are curable, according to the VA.

The project will initially begin lung-cancer screenings at the Phoenix VA Health Care System in 2017 and expand to 9 additional locations in 2018. Once VA-PALS is fully implemented, the department reports that it may span to other VA locations.

“This partnership is another example of VA’s work to improve Veterans health and well-being,” said VA Secretary David J. Shulkin, MD. “The VA-PALS lung screening initiative demonstrates our priority to work together with outside organizations to provide more efficient care aimed at addressing serious health concerns.”

The novel project builds on data and results from current screening programs, such as those that provide cancer screenings for rural veterans who may not have access to regular services, according to the release.

Findings from a recent study indicate that approximately 70% of patients seek care too late in the disease, which results in poor outcomes for lung cancer patients. Identifying lung cancer at an early stage is crucial to adequate treatment and improved survival.

“Research shows that with comprehensive lung screening programs, early identification of lung cancer leads to more effective treatments and, ultimately, saves lives,” said John Damonti, president of Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is proud to partner with the VA-PALS Implementation Network in this important step to increase access to state-of-the-art screening for Veterans at risk of lung cancer.”