Jenna Gibilaro, MD, is a pulmonologist with Orlando Health Medical Group Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine. She specializes in pulmonary disease, which includes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, pneumonia and lung cancer. Her clinical focus is providing excellent ambulatory care for those with chronic pulmonary conditions.
When to See a Pulmonologist
Patients often delay seeing a pulmonologist because they think their symptoms are simply uncomfortable, inconvenient or will pass. However, difficulty breathing or pain while inhaling and exhaling should not be ignored. Other symptoms which may be a signal to see Dr. Gibilaro include:
- Asthma that has become difficult to manage
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing while resting or walking
- Persistent cough lasting weeks
- Recurring cold
- Atypical chest findings on x-rays or other imaging
- Excessive sleepiness
- Frequently waking up at night
These symptoms may require medical evaluation by a pulmonary medicine specialist like Dr. Gibilaro. She is highly trained to diagnose disorders of the respiratory system and manage difficult, complex diseases.
The respiratory system includes:
- Bronchial tubes
- Chest wall and ribs
- Larynx (voice box)
- Mouth and nose
- Pharynx (throat)
If you have and are worried about one or more of these symptoms, schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
Pulmonary Disease Causes and Risk Factors
There are many kinds of pulmonary disease and some exposures or experiences have been clearly linked to one or several issues in the lung. A few key causes and risk factors are:
- The biggest risk factor for many diseases and disorders is smoking. The number of cigarettes smoked each day and the number of years a patient has smoked factor into their risk. Quitting smoking at any age may lower risk.
- Secondhand smoke
- According to the U.S. Surgeon General, nonsmokers regularly exposed to secondhand smoke at work and/or home increase their risk of developing a pulmonary disease or other condition by 20 to 30 percent.
- Exposure in the workplace to asbestos, especially combined with smoking, may increase the risk of developing a respiratory condition.
- Military service
- Those who have served in the military or are currently serving are at a particular risk because of exposure to a variety of industrial substances, tactical chemicals (such as Agent Orange), and pollution. Military personnel also are shown to have significant smoking rates.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an inflammatory lung disease referring to a group of diseases blocking airflow and making breathing difficult. The most common cause is smoking, however several other risk factors have been identified through research, such as pollution, genetics, and occupational exposures. Those with COPD are at increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer and other conditions.
When describing COPD, patients may hear the terms chronic bronchitis or emphysema, which are the ways doctors use to describe how patients may experience COPD differently. Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs. Emphysema occurs when the air sacs (alveoli) at the end of the smallest air passages (bronchioles) in the lungs are gradually destroyed. Some patients may exhibit signs of only one type of COPD, or there may be overlap.
Damage to the lungs from COPD cannot be reversed, but treatment can help control symptoms and minimize further damage. Dr. Gibilaro provides evidence-based treatment, sharing with her patients the menu of options now available to COPD patients including prescription medication, pulmonary rehabilitation, and surgical procedures.
COPD Symptoms and Diagnosis
A diagnosis of COPD should be considered when a patient has any of the following:
- Excessive mucus
- Walking slower than other people of a similar age
- Frequent chest infections
- Feeling as if you cannot catch your breath, especially after walking
- Weight loss
- A family history of COPD
- Smoking history, currently smoking, or exposure to regular second-hand smoke
There are a number of diagnostic tools that a pulmonologist may use to diagnose disease. Some of these procedures and tests Dr. Gibilaro might perform include:
- Arterial blood gas testing
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan
- Pulmonary function test
- Exercise testing, such as 6-minute walk test, or Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing (CPET)
- Blood work
Lung Cancer and Pulmonology
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women, however it is the leading cause of cancer-related death in both groups. Early detection is important, because early-stage lung cancer is a very treatable condition thanks to recent advances in therapeutics. While most know that the risk of lung cancer increases with smoking, there are other risk factors to consider as well. When lung cancer is suspected, we perform imaging of the lung to ensure there are no concerning areas. When there are abnormal findings, Dr. Gibilaro helps to determine the likelihood of cancer, or if there is another explanation for the abnormal finding. A biopsy may be performed, in which a small piece of lung tissue is removed by a pulmonologist, interventional radiologist or a surgeon and then examined under a microscope for cancer cells by a pathologist. Patients may experience a needle biopsy or a bronchoscopy. If cancer is diagnosed, Dr. Gibilaro works with a multidisciplinary team which includes oncologists and thoracic surgeons to ensure a treatment plan is developed and tailored to each individual patient.
Dr. Gibilaro’s Training
After graduating magna cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from George Washington University in Washington, DC, Dr. Gibilaro was a post-baccalaureate research fellow at the National Institutes of Health. She then earned her medical degree from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, with a special focus in clinical and translational research.
She began her postdoctoral training in Brooklyn as an internal medicine resident at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, the Veterans Administration NYHHS, and Kings County Hospital Center. During this time, she achieved several distinctions, including chief resident of ambulatory medicine.
Her residency was followed by a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, where she served as chief ambulatory fellow
About Dr. Gibilaro
Dr. Gibilaro is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She has extensive research experience, published her work in peer-reviewed journals, and presented at medical meetings and conferences. Areas of interest for research include lung health, cystic fibrosis, sleep apnea, obesity, and care for the geriatric population.