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Finding the Right Physician for You

As a person with a chronic lung disease, it is especially important for you to have the right physician. When you have a chronic health condition, you will be working with your doctor over a long period of time. This is not the same as going in for a short-term problem, when your doctor helps you get better and then you're on your way. Take the time to make sure your doctor is qualified to treat your condition -- and is one whom you trust as well.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1.) Does your doctor listen carefully to you, your symptoms, and family history before giving a diagnosis? Correctly diagnosing pulmonary disease is a very important start in treating it. If you are in your 20's, 30's, or 40's and have COPD, has your doctor tested you for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency? (Many people who have Alpha-1 have seen up to seven doctors before being correctly diagnosed!) For information on Alpha-1 click here.

2.) Have you had a lung function test? The Pulmonary Function Screen is a simple and quick test in which you blow into a machine that measures how much air you blow out and how fast. Depending on the results of this test, your doctor may want a more detailed test, the Pulmonary Function Complete, which takes about an hour to do, but tells the doctor a lot about how your lungs are working. Click here for official guidelines on who should get a simple pulmonary function screen.

3.) Does your doctor encourage you to take an active role in the management of your lung health? Is he or she willing to be your partner in helping you breathe better and live as well as possible? Does your doctor give you the chance to ask questions, and then take the time to answer you?

4.) Does he or she know about the latest in approved treatments and breathing medications and their side effects? If there is a new medication or treatment you heard or read about, is your doctor willing to talk with you about its benefits or drawbacks? ("Miracle" treatments you hear about might just be a scam, but your doctor should briefly take the time to explain why.)

5.) Does your doctor recognize the value of Pulmonary Rehabilitation in many cases for the treatment of lung disease? For more information on Pulmonary Rehabilitation, click here.

6.) Does your doctor realize that there is more to pulmonary disease management than sitting at home because "it is only going to get worse?" Even with limitations, there is hope for a full life with chronic lung disease. Don't let anybody hand you a death sentence!

7.) If you have done all your doctor says can be done and you are still struggling and wondering if you are getting the best treatment, is your doctor willing to consider referring you to a university medical center, or at least discuss that option with you?

For help with this, you can contact the nearest office of:

•  The American Lung Association,

•  The "Lung Line" of the National Jewish Medical Research Center that specializes in the treatment of lung disease. 1-800-222-LUNG.


If you answered, "Yes" to these questions, you have a keeper! If you answered "no" to any of them, consider looking further. Remember, you're the customer and you hire your doctor. If you need advice, talk with a respiratory therapist or nurse who works with lung patients and ask that person whom they or their loved one would go to with a breathing problem.

Finally, remember that you must always do your part in complying with what your doctor tells you to do. The best doctor in the world cannot help you if you refuse to follow instructions or take medicines as directed.


© Copyright 2005, Jane M. Martin -


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