February 28, 2020
2 min read

Few Americans aware of pulmonary fibrosis symptoms

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In a recent survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, 86% reported not knowing the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis, according to a press release from the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.

“Awareness of pulmonary fibrosis and its symptoms remains very low, and for many, the first time they hear of it is when they are diagnosed,” William T. Schmidt, president and CEO of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF), said in the release. “Improving understanding of this disease can help drive earlier diagnoses and encourage support for needed research, so that we can ultimately find a cure for pulmonary fibrosis.”

Although the cause of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the most common form of pulmonary fibrosis, remains unclear, certain populations, such as smokers and older people, are at higher risk for IPF. However, the survey showed that awareness was low even among these populations.

Specifically, 91% of survey respondents aged at least 60 years did not know the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis — such as persistent, dry cough, shortness of breath and fatigue — and 96% had never discussed the disease with their doctor. Similarly, more than 80% of current or former smokers did not know the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis and only 9% had ever spoken with their doctor about the disease. Current and former smokers were also 10% more likely to have had pulmonary fibrosis or to have known someone affected by pulmonary fibrosis.

When asked which symptoms would prompt them to seek medical care if the symptoms persisted longer than a month, 80% of respondents reported they would see a doctor if they experienced shortness of breath for longer than a month. Further, 78% reported they would see a doctor if they had a lingering cough and fatigue and half stated they would wait less than 3 weeks to see a doctor if experiencing these symptoms.

“Because many symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis are similar to those of other illnesses, like the common cold, it can be difficult to diagnose and treat, leading to late-stage diagnoses,” Schmidt said. “Our national survey results show a clear need to increase understanding of pulmonary fibrosis, so patients are better able to recognize the early signs of the disease and start conversations with their physicians.”

Although awareness appears low, 82% of respondents also said they considered pulmonary fibrosis to be a serious disease, with 49% also saying that finding a cure is “very important.” More than half (61%), however, reported being unsure whether a cure would be found within their lifetime.

"This national survey and the PFF’s awareness efforts are critical to ensuring that Americans understand pulmonary fibrosis, its symptoms and risk factors, and engaging people nationwide in fighting this serious lung disease,” Schmidt said in the release.

The survey was administered online to 2,013 adults in the United States, with fieldwork performed Jan. 9 to 10 by Atomik Research.


Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. National Awareness Survey 2020. Available at: https://www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org/docs/default-source/marketing-brochures/pff-national-consumer-survey-report---for-review-updated-2-19-2020.pdf. Accessed Feb. 27, 2020.