Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Second Opinion

Many decades ago, when my father was in his thirties, he began having a problem with his eyes. His vision was OK, but every time he went outside, his eyes teared up and spilled a steady drip of water until he went back inside. He decided to consult an eye specialist. That doctor told him he would be blind within a year. He decided to get a another opinion. The second specialist gave him the same exam the first one did and told him to wear sunglasses when he went outside. He did and had clear vision until he died at age 84.

Several years ago, I noticed a hard bulge on my abdomen. My primary care doctor referred me to a surgeon. He examined me, said it was a lipoma and suggested it be removed surgically. The "oma" part scared me and I asked him what lipoma meant. He said it was a benign fatty tumor. I asked him what would happen if we left it alone. He said, "Probably nothing, It might go away or remain." I then asked him, "If it's benign and there's no harm in doing nothing, then why recommend surgery?" He said, "I'm a surgeon. That's what I do."

When Richard has a symptom, his tendency is to watch it, see what happens over time, and if it gets worse, consult a doctor. My tendency is to call a doctor when I first notice something awry. I figure that the doctor has a perspective I don't, and I'm just getting information and am not binding myself to a course of action. But once I do get the professional opinion, it's hard to deny it and return to ignorance. So I wind up with more anxiety and more medication than Richard does. And he's pretty damn healthy.

So --How do you know when you're in denial and ignoring something critical? How do you know when you're overloading something minor with too much anxiety and attention? And how do you know when to accept a doctor's advice and when to ask for a second and a third opinion?


Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Hi. I'm Lynda, chronic pain since 1975, various issues. My experience has been that something serious that truly requires attention will not let me forget about it and ignore it. Serious comes with strong symptoms: intractable pain, dehydration, sustained nausea and vomiting; unable to be ignored.

My husband keeps me in check as to when I begin to make more of a symptom that means little. However it is difficult to find a partner with whom we trust those kinds of judgments-mirror neurons play a huge part in this.

Second opinion-I lived for many years in Key West Florida where there were few doctors in each specialty; I got into the habit of not being able to get a second opinion. Living now in the SF Bay Area with insurance that is barely better than federal Medicaid I am not covered to get second opinions.

Emily said...

I like to get a second opinion when the course of treatment is something big. Something...that involves a big commitment in either $ and/or risk.

Additionally, my husband & I are similar to your husband & you, as far as when we'll see a doctor. I think part of it is because of our respective experiences with our health. After having something relatively minor (a migraine) stretch into a lengthy ordeal, I think I'm more likely to see what COULD happen if _____ is left untreated. Does that make sense?

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