Editor's Note: Last time in Personal Best, we presented a question from reader Don Derkach about why doctors mention even the possibility that a patient might have cancer before a definite diagnosis. Dr. Jerrold Sharkey explained that he believes patients should be told of the most likely possibilities so they understand why tests are being ordered. Don wrote back to say he wasn't convinced. He also clarified that it was his girlfriend, not himself, who had been told cancer was a possibility, though subsequent tests were negative for cancer.
To the editor:
Kudos and accolades for bringing up the subject, but opprobriums for the content. Wow, talk about political correctness! My point was simple: Under no circumstances, empathetic or otherwise, should the big "C" be mentioned until diagnosed as the disease. And, if a patient wants to surf the Internet and let their imagination run wild, that's their problem. But, why mention possible bad things at all? Can't doctors say something like, "I'm not sure of the last test's results, and I'd like to run another one"? Or are they just scared of lawsuits so they fear they have to cover themselves. The doctor you used said "the doctor should list the possible diseases the exams might expose, including cancer, without scaring the patient needlessly." Hey, doc, don't you get it! You can't put the big "C" word back in the bag once it's out. There is simply no way to ameliorate the effect of the word.