You have your treatment plan set up. Surgery, followed by chemotherapy. Possibly radiation. Maybe a clinical trial using one of the new targeted therapies. Are you sure your diagnosis is correct?
Many of us know of someone – an acquaintance, a loved one, or even ourselves, where a disease or cancer is picked up later than we would have wished. But sometimes the diagnosis we trustingly receive – whether early or late – is wrong. I wrote last summer about a man who was misdiagnosed with lung cancer, who now lives minus a lung. Our own About.com Guide to Patient Empowerment, Trisha Torrey, was misdiagnosed with cancer as well. Add to misdiagnosis the other medical errors we are shocked by repetitively watching the news, and it seems hospitals should be listed in the next edition of "The World's Most Dangerous Places."
But anecdotes and statistics are just that. They tell us what has happened to a few people, or predict what could happen. We are not simply bystanders in our health care, and we do have choices. We can be advocates for ourselves in the health care we receive.
How can we be our own advocates? Check out these tips -- some that are lovingly shared by Trisha Torrey so we don't have to learn the hard way.
Get a 2nd (and maybe a 3rd or 4th) opinion. Even if your diagnosis is correct, different options may be offered. A friend of mine was given 3 very different options for his lung cancer none of which were necessarily right or wrong, but everyone is different and has different needs.
When Do You Need a Second Opinion?
Ask questions – lots of them. If your doctor doesn't have time to answer your questions, find a different doctor.
Be a savvy patient.
Tools for the Savvy Patient
Check out clinical trials - We don’t have the “perfect” treatment for lung cancer, but there are many possibilities in the works.
Clinical Trials for Lung Cancer
Trust your intuition - Only you can make the best decisions about your care. If you are uncomfortable with the options suggested by your physician or family, go with your gut. Look further until that little voice inside says “yes, I can live with this choice.”