My opinion: As I've always mentioned, diagnosis is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the medical industry. It is interesting that check-ups are revealing more about our bodies - it may indicate that appointments are becoming better. However, not entirely, as the patients are not completely aware of the problem when they leave. Then, the patients may become anxious or even fearful afterward. It is difficult to say just when these situations will occur less often, as improvements in appointments could give more definite diagnoses, or could point out more unclear problems. Obviously, there is always some risk involved in these discoveries, and the patient can choose to take as many precautions as possible or limit them. Though doctors today give patients much of the choice, perhaps they should give patients the choice to let the doctor make most of the important decisions. Patients who are always on the fence might prefer this method a bit, as they would have to think less about their options, thus lowering their anxiety levels. For all patients, doctors should also pick their words carefully - for example, the words bulky and big might have slightly different connotations when describing a tumor. Big just says that it has a large presence, whereas bulky says that it weighs heavily on the patient. This could influence the patient's final decision. Any other ways to improve diagnoses? Feel free to comment.
Our Wait-and-See Culture
By ROBERT J. ABRAMSON
Published: March 7, 2013
JUST as the captain of the Rachel in “Moby-Dick” searched for his lost son and instead found Ishmael, doctors routinely reveal the unexpected while scanning for something else. What to do with this acquired information and how to follow up is becoming an increasingly vexing problem for physicians and their patients.
Unexpected finds — which the medical community has labeled “incidentalomas” — are ever more common because of an increase in scans, driven in part by legal concerns. For me, the concept of incidentalomas went from somewhat abstract to all too real when, about two years ago, an abdominal sonogram of my bladder revealed an abnormality on my pancreas. Pancreatic lesions have always had an ominous air about them because of the historically high mortality rate for pancreatic cancer, but luckily an M.R.I. and an endoscopic ultrasound confirmed the lesion as a cyst with very low malignant potential. I was advised to follow up in six months.
After I left the doctor’s office, still in that post-anesthesia state, I tried to process the phrase “low malignant potential.” I never wanted my name and the word “malignant” mentioned in the same sentence, yet “low” was certainly better than “high” and “potential” more reassuring than actual.
Still, in the next six months, I began to notice a curious new habit: checking the obituary pages to see who and how many had died of pancreatic cancer. I don’t know if I thought that someone else’s dying of pancreatic cancer would make my chances lower — as if some magical quota had been fulfilled — or higher. Regardless, I checked the section as if it were the latest political poll, stock market listing or other world event that I had precious little control over.