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The Gazette, Colorado Springs


Dear Dr. Roach: In the 1950s, I worked for a plumber covering pipes with asbestos. In 1976, I lost my entire lung on the left side, operated on at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York. From that moment in 1976, I never had a problem with my other lung until about three months ago, when I had trouble breathing on the treadmill. I happened to see my heart doctor at that time, and he detected water in my lung and gave me water pills for two weeks. Then he sent me to a pulmonary doctor, and I had a CT scan. They told me I had pulmonary fibrosis. My pulmonary doctor suggested a teaching hospital with a pulmonary fibrosis program, and I enrolled, only they will not see me until November. My doctor said a new drug called Ofev might be helpful. Perhaps you could help me. P.S. I am taking amiodarone and methotrexate for heart disease. — S.A. Answer: You have at least four possible reasons for lung disease. One is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which is treated with Ofev (nintedanib). This medication is effective at slowing the progression of IPF. However, two of your medicines, amiodarone and methotrexate, are both well-known for potentially causing lung disease. Moreover, asbestos causes multiple lung problems, and back in the 1950s, workers were not adequately protected from asbestos fibers. Asbestos can cause a fibrosis in the lung similar to IPF. Asbestos also increases the risk for an unusual type of cancer called mesothelioma, as well as the common type of lung cancer. I wonder if the surgery in 1976 was done in concern of lung cancer, since Memorial Sloan Kettering is primarily a cancer hospital. I am very glad you are going to a referral center. There is some evidence that Ofev might be beneficial for other types of lung disease besides IPF. You will need to see not just a pulmonary expert, but one who has special expertise in treatment of this type of lung fibrosis. I would defer to their expertise.