Survey Identifies Need for COPD Awareness, Discourse

Physicians may miss opportunities to discuss chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with their patients, including former and current smokers with symptoms, according to survey results reported by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

The survey found that the proportion of current smokers who had discussed COPD symptoms with their physicians had increased from 42% in 2009 to 67% in 2013, according to the report. However, during this period, the proportion of former smokers who had talked to their doctors about these symptoms dropped slightly, from 78% in 2009 to 77% in 2013.

Although 74% of current smokers said they had talked to their physicians about their chronic cough, wheezing, or being too short of breath to do normal activities, 26% said no to this question.

Of those who were surveyed who had COPD symptoms and said they had talked to their doctors about having a chronic cough, wheezing, or being too short of breath to do normal activities, only 18% said their doctors told them they might have COPD. Of this group, only 35% said the doctors talked to them about their past or current smoking history.

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According to the NHLBI report, the results suggest that awareness of COPD may influence why patients do not talk to their physicians about COPD symptoms: Among those surveyed who were symptomatic and had not talked to their doctors about symptoms, various reasons were mentioned for not doing so, including: “they did not think of it” (cited by 27%), they had the problem for years (20%), “I don’t want another ‘quit smoking’ message” (16%), and the problem “will just go away in time” (16%).

“Regardless of positive developments, the challenge remains that more than 1 in 3 Americans do not know what COPD is or how it affects them – and less than half understand that COPD can be treated,” James Kiley, PhD, director of the NHLBI Division of Lung Diseases, said in the statement.

The web-based survey is conducted every year by the communications company Porter Novelli, for NHLBI’s “COPD Learn More Breathe Better” campaign. The campaign promotes national awareness about COPD, directed at people with COPD, those at risk of COPD, and health care providers, particularly primary care providers, according to the NHLBI.

The 2013 survey sampled almost 4,500 adults in the United States, with a 66% response rate. Up to half the estimated 24 million people in the United States with COPD have not been diagnosed, and in 2010, COPD replaced stroke as the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the NHLBI.

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