Pulmonary Fibrosis Prognosis
When healthcare providers discuss a person's pulmonary fibrosis prognosis, they carefully consider all of the factors that could affect that person's disease and treatment before predicting what might happen. Some of the factors that can lengthen the life expectancy in people with pulmonary fibrosis include a positive response to treatment after three to six months, a younger age, and minimal shortness of breath at diagnosis.
Pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive disease, meaning that it does not improve on its own or with treatment. However, how it progresses among individuals is quite varied. In some people, the lung tissue quickly becomes thick and stiff, while in others, the process is much slower. In others, the condition stays the same for years.
For those who have been told that they have pulmonary fibrosis, they are understandably concerned about their own prognosis, including their life expectancy. When healthcare providers discuss a person's prognosis (including their life expectancy), they carefully consider all of the factors that could affect that person's disease and treatment, and then try to predict what might happen. The healthcare provider will base the prognosis on information that researchers have collected over many years about hundreds (or even thousands) of people who are in a similar situation. When possible, the healthcare provider will use statistics based on groups of people whose situations are most similar to that of an individual patient.
For example, researchers have shown that certain factors may lead to a longer survival rate among people with pulmonary fibrosis. Some of these factors that can lengthen the life expectancy in people with pulmonary fibrosis include:
- A younger age (under 50 years old)
- Symptoms that began less than one year before diagnosis (see Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis)
- If the pulmonary fibrosis is associated with certain diseases (such as systemic sclerosis) compared to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
- Minimal shortness of breath at diagnosis
- Less lung damage based on the high-resolution CT (HRCT) at the time of diagnosis
- A positive response to treatment after three to six months (see Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatment).
Because these factors directly affect life expectancy, a person's healthcare provider is the best person to discuss the expected results for their particular situation. However, it is important to keep in mind that a prognosis is only a prediction; the healthcare provider cannot be absolutely certain about the outcome for a particular patient.