Laurel's Blog


Inaccurate Preliminary Diagnosis Terrifies Patients

August 23, 2017

Six years ago, after a sonogram and a biopsy, I was told "You Have Cancer." A few minutes later, my primary care doctor continued. "It's in your liver and is inoperable."

Facts upon further investigation: It was not liver cancer and WAS operable. She had delivered a death sentence which was, shall we say, premature?

Several months ago, a family member was told "You have a blood clot in your leg and cancer metastasis in your hip." Fearing the clot, a hospital stay was called for.

Facts upon further investigation: There was no blood clot. There were mets.

Several weeks ago, a colleague with a rare cancer was told by his primary care doctor "You have cancer and 12-18 months to live." This, by a physician with NO experience with the slow-growing cancer he was said to have.

While still too early for follow-up facts, I would venture that the life expectancy is significantly longer than postulated by this general physician unless there are other underlying health issues.

So, what does this tell us?
A) Primary care doctors aren't good at delivering bad news.
B) Before further investigation, tests and scans, it is unlikely that such preliminary information is highly accurate.
C) Getting all of the relevant information, as well as second opinions from specialists in the area of concern is essential.

Don' t jump off the mental cliff of stress and anxiety and panic because of a frightening preliminary diagnosis until you have gathered all the facts, all the scans, all the blood work, and the expert opinions needed to confirm what is really going on. I know, it's easy to say and very, very hard to do. Get support from specialists, social workers, clergy, and folks with similar diagnoses. Take a look at my book You Have Cancer: Moving From Fear to Hope. It might help, too.

for families facing the challenges of aging and chronic illness