In this fifth English corner, you will find a contribution dealing with pneumology, and more precisely COPD. We would like to remind you that our aim is not to teach medicine but to familiarize readers with medical english as used by professionals and patients.

Dr. Spiro : Mrs Fevis. Now I’d like you to blow as hard and as fast as you can into this tube. First of all, take a deep breath – now blow, blow, blow. Good. Well, the results aren’t very good, I’m afraid. You told your GP that you’d been wheezing and coughing up phlegm, you were feeling short of breath and you had some tightness in the chest. How are you feeling today?

Mrs Fevis : Pretty much the same, doctor. I still get out of puff going up the stairs or even just doing the  housework. The wheezing comes and goes. The cough’s a little better though. Is there anything I can take to help me breathe more easily? 

Dr. Spiro : Let’s just go back to the test for a moment. According to the results, you’re suffering from COPD : that’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It means that your airways are inflamed and irritable and overproducing mucus, which explains that chronic cough you’ve got. As well as that, the little sacs in your lungs where the oxygen gets into the blood are also damaged, which means that you have to breathe more frequently and you have the feeling you can’t get enough air in.

Mrs Fevis : Can you give me something for it, Doctor?

Dr. Spiro : Unfortunately, there’s no cure and I’m afraid it’s a progressive disease, so it’s not going to get any better. There are a number of things you can do to give some relief though. Have you stopped smoking, for example?

Mrs Fevis : I’m trying, Doctor, but as my husband smokes, it’s a bit difficult.

Dr. Spiro : You must keep trying. It’s probably the smoking that caused your illness. I can’t stress this enough. You’ll be finding it harder and harder to breathe and one day you may have to carry an oxygen bottle everywhere you go. I’ll refer you to a smoking cessation specialist to help you. Take your husband with you.

Mrs Fevis : Thank you, Doctor. I’ll do my best to persuade him.

Dr. Spiro : Right, to get back to the COPD. Tell me, are you sleeping well or do you feel short of breath at night?

Mrs Fevis : No, it’s alright at night – I’m sleeping very well.

Dr. Spiro : Good. There are a couple of treatment options available. First of all, I’ll prescribe a spray to open up your airways. It’s called a bronchodilator and it relaxes the muscles around your bronchi. We’ll start straight away with a long-acting one, which you should use every 12 hours. If that doesn’t seem strong enough, we may have to use a combined one. And if the cough continues, we may have to put you on corticosteroids to treat the inflammation. But we can talk about that next time you come. Another thing, summer’s nearly over, so it’s time to think about a flu jab. Do you have a flu jab every year?

Mrs Fevis : No, I’ve never had a flu jab. Why, do I need one?

Dr. Spiro : Well your airways and lungs are in pretty poor shape, so if you get flu, or worse, pneumonia, it could make you very ill indeed. So, make sure you get a flu jab. As well as that, you have to stay away from anything that could irritate your airways. You don’t have a pet, do you?

Mrs Fevis : No, but my daughter sometimes asks me to look after her cat – when she goes on holiday, for example.

Dr. Spiro : I’m afraid you’d better explain your problem and tell her to find someone else.

Mrs Fevis : Oh dear, she’s not going to like that – she counts on us, you know.

Dr. Spiro : There are a couple of other things you need to know. First of all, meals – It’s better to eat several light meals than one or two big meals, and make sure you have a well-balanced diet. Keep an eye on your weight too. The extra effort you make to breathe burns up a lot of calories, so make sure you’re not losing weight. Another thing - I’m going to refer you for pulmonary rehabilitation. You’ll need to do some exercises to strengthen your breathing muscles. Right, that’s all for the moment. Do you have any questions?...


  1. Influenza vaccination = a flu jab
  2. Breathless = short of breath
  3. Breathless = out of puff
  4. Constriction in the thorax = tightness in the chest
  5. Domestic animal = pet
  6. Exhale strongly = blow
  7. Fill your lungs with air = take a deep breath
  8. Give, prescribe = put you on
  9. Healthy food = well-balanced diet
  10. Immediately = straight away
  11. Make stronger = strengthen
  12. Rather bad condition = pretty poor shape
  13. Recovery therapy = rehabilitation
  14. Respiratory tract = airways
  15. Send a patient to a colleague = refer to
  16. Sputum or expectoration = phlegm
  17. The organs of respiration = the lungs



*Professeurs d’anglais médical `a l’université de Dijon

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