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Questions to Ask Your Pulmonologist

Pulmonologists are doctors who specialize in lung conditions. Often called “lung doctors” or “chest doctors,” these specialists work with your primary care doctor and others to diagnose and treat respiratory system conditions.

You may see a pulmonologist for asthma, bronchiectasis, lung cancer, or other diseases of the respiratory system, which include your lungs, nose and throat.

When seeing a pulmonologist, or any doctor, it’s important to ask questions about your health. Before your next appointment with your pulmonologist, grab a notebook and make a list of questions to ask. It’s a great idea to have a dedicated notebook for doctor appointments—that way you can see notes for all past and future appointments in the same place.

Make it a practice to use your notebook to write down questions before your appointment so you don’t forget what you want to know once you are at the doctor’s office—something that is common with the excitement and anxiety that comes along with doctor appointments. Then pack your list (and a pen or pencil) as well as any other important paperwork to bring to your pulmonologist appointment.

Here’s what to ask to get the most out of your next appointment with your pulmonologist:

Discuss any new and immediate concerns.

At the top of your list, write down any new and immediate concerns. If you only have a short amount of time with your pulmonologist, ask these questions of highest priority first.

If your health condition recently emerged, you’re seeing a new doctor, or you think your condition may have worsened, be sure to note any new information your pulmonologist should know before your appointment. Be specific in your notes including any dates and details you can recall so you can share as much information with your pulmonologist as possible. For example, have you noticed that your asthma feels worse lately? On which dates did you feel that way, and were there potential triggers?

Make sure you understand your recent test results and/or upcoming tests.

Next on your list, make note of which test results you are expecting your pulmonologist to discuss with you at your next appointment. Then when you visit, you can make sure that the doctor does, in fact, discuss those results with you, and remember to take notes as the doctor explains. Case in point, bronchiectasis is common in adults over age 75. Diagnostic tests include chest X-rays or CT scans, lung function tests, blood tests, sputum cultures, bronchoscopies, or a combination of these things. Having a list of the tests you took in front of you can help you feel less overwhelmed during your appointment. Check off the discussion points as you speak with your doctor.

Additionally, if your pulmonologist tells you that you’ll need new or additional tests, ask for the names of the tests and what your pulmonologist hopes to learn from their results. This will help you prepare for the tests, and be helpful to reference at your follow-up appointment.

Ask about treatments and medications.

Finally, the condition you’re seeing your pulmonologist for might be complex and may require a combination of treatments and medication. For instance, there are different types and stages of lung cancer, which may require different types of treatment. Ask your pulmonologist about your current treatment plan, and how and why they feel it is or is not working for you (and share how you feel about your current treatment, too). Are there new treatments or medications your doctor wants you to switch to, or are they happy with how you are doing on your current plan? How do you feel about these things? Be sure to also ask about how diet and exercise impact your condition. Does your pulmonologist have suggested changes?

Make it a goal to leave your next pulmonologist appointment understanding more about your health, and what is ahead for maintaining your wellness. Visiting with your list of questions is a great step in reaching this goal and continuing to feel your best.

Shelby Fisk is a writer who is passionate about connecting individuals to information that can improve their lives. She works extensively on wellness and education initiatives. You can find her on Twitter at @shelbyfisk.
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