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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Doctors don't know everything ... or even close ...

So, somehow I think we all give a lot more credit to doctors than they really deserve. At least this is my thinking. You know, we figure they actually KNOW what they're doing. This is why sometimes I get home from the doctor and think, "Why didn't I ask that?" Because the doctor sounded so confident in what he was saying that I just accepted it.

I had this experience a few years ago with a dermatologist. I went in to have a mole checked since it was growing and getting jagged edges, both signs you're supposed to watch for. (My family doctor said she didn't think it was cause for concern, but I decided to go get a second opinion since the mole hadn't existed a few years earlier.) So, the dermatologist also says he doesn't think it's anything to worry about. He cuts out most of the mole and tells me that he left a few of the jagged edges (since he cut a nice, round circle). I had the thought, "Why not just take it all?" but I didn't say it.

Needless to say, he called a few days later and said there were "abnormalities" with the sample they took, and that I needed to come in and have the rest removed. He said to wait until it healed and then come get the rest cut out. Thanks a lot!!! Well, it gets better ...

When my finger healed, there are no visible mole fragments. I call the dermatologist to find out how they will handle this and am told that if I can't see them that they're fine and just to leave them. Of course they're not willing to put this into writing. I explain that there were abnormalities and that he knew he left fragments behind, and he's the one who called to have me come in to get the rest out. (BTW, he was no longer with the company when I healed, but I never heard exactly why since I didn't go back!) I ended up going to another dermatologist, who also assured me that if you can no longer see them, than 99 percent of the time the body heals those left-behind fragments. I hope I'm not the 1 percent! ;) Anyway, he did say that if it EVER grows back to have it removed and to not let anyone talk me out of it.

My niece with Cystic Fibrosis was taken to the doctor innumerable times her first year of life, and her doctor basically thought my sister was a hypochondriac. They ran all types of random tests (even one for dwarfism) to see why she wasn't growing. It wasn't until she was in the ER with lung failure that a specialist looked at her and immediately said (just from looking at her), "She has cystic fibrosis. Get her tested immediately." Sure enough, he was right. Good thing he was visiting from another hospital that day!

So, on goes the saga: My mom has a growth on her bottom eyelid that has bothered her for years. The family doctor said it's just a cyst and it's fine. She was going to have it cut away when she had LASIK surgery a couple of years ago, but they said it would just grow back so it was pointless to have it removed. Last week she finally decided to see a specialist (after what was probably an inspired recommendation to her), and turns out it's skin cancer. She goes in for surgery next week to have it removed and her whole bottom lid reconstructed. Hello -- glad it's nothing anyone ever worried about!

In any case, it's made me realize how often doctors just really don't know. I mean, the human body is so complex it's not really possible for them to know it all. I've found specialists have a lot more of a grasp on their speciality, but even then they've got to do some guesswork here and there. I think back to my PR jobs and how sometimes I was just pulling what I could out of my hat, and often that was enough to appease the clients. I then realized doctors have to do the same thing -- but they sound so confident doing it that we think they actually know what they're talking about. (Maybe part of it is being a man, too, which most of my doctors have been. No offense to any men out there, but you're A LOT more cocky than us women!)

Anyway, I'm going to make it a point to speak up more often, ask the questions I want to ask even if I think I'll sound stupid, and basically make sure they have to think at least twice before writing out a prescription and sending me on my way. My little family has been very fortunate to not have major illnesses and we've always had doctors I really do trust, but I'll take this as yet another lesson in this adventure called motherhood!


Jana Nielsen said...

I so agree with you! I usually do allot of my own research on what the Dr. has said and how it really matches up to my symptoms or situation. For 18 years, the Drs. couldn't figure out what was causing my Chronic Fatigue. Then I get a new Dr. The kind that sits down with you for an hour and sais they'll get down to the bottom of this. She does tests others didn't and finds that all 4 of the Epstien Barr tests are off the charts. One was supposed to be under 30 and mine was 187. No wonder I was so fatigued as that is the main symptom of this. It is also linked to Chronic Fatigue. And I waited 18 years for this?

We've also got to consider how long that Dr. looks at us, or even considers us. An hour at tops, usually less than 15 minutes. How can they really know how our symptoms are really, or how they are affecting us?

Yeah, you know your body or your child's better than they do, probably spend more time on the internet getting information on it, etc. Ballance out the credibility. It's at least half yours.

the Rowleys said...

Oh, I could go on for hours about this, 2 major misdiagnoses for me and for Michael to simply need one medication that the many emergancy visits and follow up visits after no one seemed to mention until we got to the sepcialist, I guess that is why you have to spend so much money, because they have a better idea of what they are talking about. I use to beileve everything they said, but have learned sadly through personal experience that they have some good knowledge, but are very far from knowing everything. Talking about this to a sister in law she commented that in a Start Trek episode they were on earth and a guy got hurt and they said "don't let them (the doctors) touch him, their medicine is barbaric!" Really in 20 years are we going to look back and say, "wow I can't believe they did that"?

Dashley said...

I feel so stupid, but I didn't figure out that doctors don't know everything til I was like 20.

MIMOM2 said...

I completely agree with you! Well said.