Well, it took me more than 6 months to gather this courage. I called my doctor who referred me for the mammogram 2 years ago but missed the words “incidental mass”.
I started off by explaining that I didn’t know the procedure of who gets what reports and whether or not she was even the right person to talk to, but that the radiologist and surgeon I saw at the time are no longer with those practices. We talked for quite a long time, and without putting her on the defensive, I explained to her what I felt happened in my case, and that my radiology report had slipped through the cracks. At first she kept saying she had done all she could at the time and that once it was sent out on a referral basis, it was out of her hands. I explained to her that I felt it her duty to know what was happening with her patients. She said doctors are human. She rhetorically asked me if she now has to look over the shoulders of the radiologists and I said, “apparently so”.
She said she reads a lot of mammogram reports and always TRIES to read at least the bottom line (final impression from radiologist), but I said obviously that’s not enough. My report’s words were in the very first line, not the bottom line. The bottom line was his impressions on what I was being sent there for, a look at a palpable mass…but the finding he mentions were in another location. As it turns out, even the palpable mass was cancer! I told her that in my experience down Breast Cancer Road, I have learned something common amongst all breast cancer patients. They are both a.) A woman, and b.) have had some type of change on their breast tissue. Couple this with a mammogram finding or a lump and I believe an MRI or biopsy should be ordered. I asked of her that she begin doing the following with her patients:
“When you send a patient for a mammogram, PLEASE tell her to get her written transcribed report, and that if she reads anything concerning, to please contact you so that it can be followed up.” I said, “please do this particularly with young women with dense breast tissue….their cancers are not always seen on mammogram or ultrasound.” I told her if this had been done for me I may not be where I am today. If there are layers of oversight, maybe other women won’t be victim to the mistakes that can be made by human doctors. She thanked me and said she would begin doing this in her practice, and that I had educated her during our conversation.
So I guess I have one load off my mind, addressing a professional and calling her on what I felt was a medical “slip up”. I know that for me it is too late, but I can only hope this might change things for her future patients. It might, just might save another woman from letting a breast cancer go undetected, and to receive early detection. Part of fighting breast cancer is fighting for truth, for competent medical care and for change…and don’t think that YOU are immune….these things are happening everywhere all over the country…you are your own best advocate. With no cure for breast cancer, early detection and prevention are our only ammunition.
I have met a woman recently diagnosed stage 1, who, after meeting with 3 oncologists, learned that there is a test to see if you are even a candidate for chemo therapy! The other 2 doctors were just ready to blindly to put her through it, and never so much as mentioned such a test! As it turns out, she paid for the test herself ($4,000), and learned that she doesn’t get much benefit from chemo and so will not have to have it! Insurance companies need to start providing this to patients so that their health and lives are not needlessly altered by chemo therapy’s toxic effects (which by the way costs a whole lot more than just $4,000!!) ! By the way, in my case, the test was not necessary because they already knew I had the triple positive growth gene of Her2Nu+++, and in those cases chemo is required.
Another friend who is an 18 month survivor, has recently taken a job with The American Cancer Society and is advocating for cancer patients right here in Washington D.C. where health care reform is being battled! She is using her experience to help change the lives of others for the better and has inspired me to do the same! Thank you, Donna! You gave me just the push I needed to confront this issue that has haunted me since my diagnosis….(what could have been done differently. (?) )