Since I was diagnosed with cancer over 5 years ago, I have heard many stories from people who have gone undiagnosed for months before their cancer was found. I’m sure you have met someone with this kind of story, or you may even be one of those stories. I had a friend when I was a little younger who kept having pain in his leg. He would go to urgent care, have them tell him he pulled a muscle, give him some anti-inflammatory and send him on his way. The pain persisted; he went to the ER on one occasion and another urgent care on another. Finally he went to his general practitioner (several months later) and was ultimately diagnosed with stage 4 testicular cancer at age 29. I read about another woman who had persistent complaints that were always explained away by the fact that she was menopause age, only to be diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer 8 months later.
What do these stories have in common? These two along with many others I have encountered say things like, “I knew something was seriously wrong with me, I know my body and the doctors wouldn’t listen, If only they would have know to order this simple test, Why didn’t the doctors put it together sooner?”
We are our best advocate. We know our bodies, we know when something isn’t right, and sometimes we need to push to get some answers. We can be a squeaky wheel. This is our life we are talking about.
Doctors are wonderful, caring, compassionate and knowledgeable, but they do not know everything. A general practitioner is just that, he sees general medical problems. An OB looks for specific issues regarding the female physiology. I am not faulting the medical profession, they look for the most common cause of symptoms, which is usually the right answer. If you come in with a runny nose you assume cold, not head and neck cancer. There comes a point in our illness when we realize this is not the usual. This is when we really have to speak up and say something is not right here; if your doctor won’t listen then you need to find someone who will.
Be your own best advocate, ask a family member to go to appointments with you, give them permission to speak up for you if you have a difficult time speaking up for yourself. Get a second opinion if necessary, you are not going to hurt your doctor’s feelings, people do this every day. Have the freedom to challenge something that you think is not best for you. You are part of your treatment team, take care of yourself.