Jan 11 2007

American Medicine = A Rubik’s Cube

(Two days of Today Show inspiration!)

A vignette of the 1980s with a brief mention of the Rubik’s cube — and it struck me that it’s exactly what American Health Care has been reduced to. A six-sided, multi-colored puzzle that few people can solve, and most everyone gives up on.

Some metaphor.

Jan 11 2007

American Medicine = A Rubik’s Cube

(Two days of Today Show inspiration!)

A vignette of the 1980s with a brief mention of the Rubik’s cube — and it struck me that it’s exactly what American Health Care has been reduced to. A six-sided, multi-colored puzzle that few people can solve, and most everyone gives up on.

Some metaphor.

Jan 10 2007

Study: Second Opinions Change Treatment More Than Half the Time!

Heard this on the Today Show this morning:

http://www.cancer.med.umich.edu/news/second_opinion06.shtml

A study at the University of Michigan — women with breast cancer were studied, and 52% of the time a second opinion yielded changes in the original protocol recommendations for their treatments.

Every Patient’s Advocate’s recommendation: whenever your treatment will be at ALL invasive (surgery, difficult drugs, long term) — get a second opinion!

And — the best place to get a good recommendation for a second opinion doctor is by finding another patient who has the same disease/condition or symptoms as you, then asking that person about his/her doctor.

Avoid asking your own doctor for a second opinion referral , unless you ask for a referral to a specific doctor you have already researched. Rarely do two doctors who know each other contradict each other. You need objectivity, not two agreeable friends, to make your recommendations.

Learn more about second opinions at: www.EveryPatientsAdvocate.com

Jan 09 2007

Are you a cyberchondriac?

web bombIt’s a new word to me, but today I learned it’s been around since 1999 (way back then!)

Recognizing the web as fertile ground for those who fantasize they are suffering from some dreadful malady, “cyberchondria” was coined as the internet version of hypochondria, of course.

As the moderator on the Research Help Board at HealthBoards.com (MisdiagnosisMOD) and the Medical Research on the Internet expert at AllExperts.com, I usually hear from people who ask really good questions about a diagnosis or treatment option. Sometimes, too, I hear from folks who can’t get a diagnosis — their doctors are flummoxed. I do my best to help them learn more because having symptoms with no clear diagnosis is a horrible limbo to be in.

But sometimes I am contacted by people who ask questions such as, “I have a pain behind my left ear. Do I have brain cancer?” This comes a week or two after a previous question such as, “I can’t find my car keys. Do I have Alzheimer’s Disease?”

Now — I do appreciate that people are tuned in to their bodies. Always good.

HOWEVER — using the internet to make the leap from a small pain to brain cancer, or forgotten car keys to Alzheimer’s disease is simply cyberchondrism at its best. Maybe someone DOES have those diseases, but if so, then they likely have other symptoms, too. Their bigger pain will come from the fences they tripped over while jumping to such dire conclusions.

Cyberchondria is a word for our times. I hope you won’t get caught in its (ahem…) web! A sharp patient will avoid it at all costs.

Jan 08 2007

Ovarian Cancer – an Invisible Disease

She’s elderly. And for more than six months, she has complained with what seemed to be gastro-intestinal symptoms. Bloat, pain, fullness, lack of appetite, swelling and more. Tests on her gastro system including CT scans, ultrasound and an MRI were run and – nothing. Some of her current drugs, including Zoloft, were cut back to relieve the symptoms. Still nothing. Finally the doctor told her he couldn’t find anything – it must be her age.

Three weeks ago, she began running a fever, the bloating increased, she became listless, and thinking she had the flu, she was moved from assisted living to the hospital. In treating her for the flu, one very sharp nurse practitioner began to think the flu might not be the problem.

Sure enough — a tentative diagnosis of ovarian cancer, with a possibility of peritoneal cancer came forth and surgery a few days later revealed that her body was riddled with tumors. Blockages and fluid were everywhere. The surgeon removed as many as he could, and she “enjoyed” her first chemo treatment a week later. The prognosis, considering her age, is still tentative. She’ll be moved to a nursing home in a few days.

But the question remains — why didn’t any of the doctors suspect ovarian cancer? In reading about it after we got the diagnosis, I find that her symptoms were very typical! Ovarian cancer is very hard to detect…. but perhaps part of that difficulty is that doctors don’t think to look for it?

Her life may have been saved by the nurse practitioner — so my thanks and gratitude go out to her. But I will forever wonder if the prognosis wouldn’t have been better had the doctor been on his toes.

If you are female, and you have gastro-problem type symtoms that you can’t get answers for — please ask your doctor to check you for ovarian cancer!