"Mr. Corbett, you have prostate cancer. It is early stage. You have a variety of treatment options (he explained them)in your case I recommend watchful waiting," said the doctor on receipt of pathology reports from my husband's surgery for an enlarged prostate. Just six weeks prior to the surgery he was diagnosed in kidney failure due to the enlarged prostate and we were not ready for that news. At the time, we didn't know how well his bladder and kidneys would recover if at all. Besides, his internist had told us his PSA (prostate specific antigen) tests showed no need for concern. It was in the normal range.
The urologist gave him a book about prostate cancer, which we both began read. The authors recommended some type of treatment or surgery up to age 70. My husband was 67, why was this doctor recommending watchful waiting? We searched other books and the Internet. Nothing we found seemed to support watchful waiting.
We questioned the doctor again, but his recommendation did not change. Determined to get a second opinion, we made an appointment and arrived with test results in hand. The second doctor barely looked at the test results. He seemed rushed and uninterested, and said that if the first doctor recommended watchful waiting, then that was the best choice. We were unsettled as the laxness of his internist had lead to his kidney failure and we didn't want any more mistakes.
Still frustrated, we reread the information we had gathered and learned that Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore had a reputation for state-of-the art treatment of prostate cancer. A neighbor had gone there and spoke highly of his experience. He gave us the name of his doctor. We made an appointment after working through the approval process with our insurer.
From sign-in to sign-out, our experience there was expedient, coordinated, thorough, and enlightening. The doctor at Johns Hopkins agreed with watchful waiting, but this time we were satisfied with the recommendation. What made the difference? The doctor took time to thoroughly answer all of our questions with specifics and he fully explained the reasons behind his recommendation. Reasons that made sense in spite of everything we had read. The question that needed answering all along was, "Why?" Often the most important question we can ask and the one that goes unanswered.
• Do your research and then do it again, if you need to.
• Seek a second and, if necessary, a third opinion.
• Go to doctors who specialize in your medical problem, wherever they are located.
• Persistence pays off.
• Do not give up until you get answers that make sense.
• Don't forget to ask "Why?"
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