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Allegheny Health Network Hosts Series of COPD Awareness Events

Thursday, November 9, 2017

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – It is one of the few diseases that is actually becoming more prevalent every year and in recent years has moved past stroke to become the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Still, public awareness and understanding of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – better known as COPD – is limited. Allegheny Health Network (AHN), a Highmark Health company, is hoping to change that.
National COPD Day is November 15, but AHN is taking advantage of the preceding weekend to mark the occasion a few days early. This Saturday, November 11, several AHN facilities will host COPD awareness events, open to the public between noon and 2 p.m. That includes Allegheny Valley Hospital in Natrona Heights; Canonsburg Hospital; Forbes Hospital in Monroeville; Jefferson Hospital in Jefferson Hills; Saint Vincent Hospital in Erie; and the Wexford Health + Wellness Pavilion. West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield will have COPD awareness events between noon and 2 p.m. on Thursday, November 16, which is also Great American Smokeout Day.

During the COPD awareness events, visitors will have access to flu vaccinations and be able to get instructions on proper use of inhalers as well as information on smoking cessation. Additionally, respiratory therapists will offer free risk assessment and screening spirometry tests, a non-invasive exam that shows how well a person’s lungs are working.

Almost 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, but the actual numbers are believed to be much higher. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention (CDC), more than 50 percent of adults with low pulmonary function were unaware they had COPD.

“The symptoms of COPD are easy to associate with the common cold or asthma,” said Anil Singh, MD, MPH, a pulmonologist and critical care physician who is director of AHN’s Breathing Disorders Center at the Wexford Health + Wellness Pavilion. “That’s one of the reasons why awareness is so critical when it comes to COPD. It is a chronic, progressive disease that cannot be cured. But with the right diagnosis, it can be treated and managed.”

The most common symptoms of COPD are breathlessness, or a need for air; excessive sputum production; and a chronic cough. While tobacco smoke is the key factor in the development and progression of COPD, the disease is not just a “smoker’s cough.” Rather, it is an under-diagnosed, life-threatening lung disease.

“Once the disease has progressed to the point where you develop emphysema, that process is irreversible and the damage is done,” added Dr. Singh. “But once you stop smoking, you can halt the progression."

Before the public events on November 11, Dr. Singh, Tariq Cheema, MD, and several of their colleagues are hosting a COPD and Breathing Disorders Symposium from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Wexford Health + Wellness Pavilion, for physicians and other healthcare providers.