Talking to Your Doctor About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with COPD. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and ask questions you may not have thought to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask where you can obtain more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

About Your Risk of Developing COPD

  • Based on my medical history, lifestyle, and family background, am I at risk for COPD?
  • How do I know if someone in my family had or has COPD? What physical signs or symptoms should I be looking for?
  • Are there genetic tests I should undergo to see if I’m likely to develop COPD?
  • How do I best prevent COPD?
  • How can my lungs be checked and how often should they be checked?

About Treatment Options

  • How do I best treat COPD?
  • What medications are available to help me?
    • What are the benefits/side effects of these medications?
    • Will these medications interact with other medications, over-the-counter products, or dietary or herbal supplements I am already taking for other conditions?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that will help me?
  • Will I need surgery for COPD?
  • Would I benefit from a comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation program?

About Lifestyle Changes

  • Are there dietary changes I should make? How do I go about it?
  • Should I stop drinking alcohol?
  • How can I find help to quit smoking?

About Outlook

  • How will I know that my prevention or treatment program is effective?
  • Can you suggest a support group?
  • Will I still be able to work and participate in activities?
  • What is my long-term outlook? By how much can I improve that outlook if I quit smoking?

COPD. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated September 1, 2018. Accessed October 15, 2018.

Patient Education: Teaching the Patient with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: Updated March 28, 2018. Accessed October 15, 2018.

Tips for talking to your doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: Updated May 2010. Accessed February 22, 2017.

Last reviewed March 2018 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 3/30/2018