Doctors who don’t spot a cancer within ten seconds of seeing a patient are to be publically humiliated and chastised by an idiot in government who couldn’t diagnose a missing head.
I was under the impression that doctors (the medical kind, not the proper ones) were human beings with all the inherent flaws of that species. Feeling a bit tired one day, a bit distracted another day, seeing a set of symptoms that match a particular infection they have seen before – but also matching a cancer they have not seen before.
Cancer can be said to be common if you include all the little benign ones that nobody pays any attention to, like that mole that hasn’t changed in fifty years. If it changes, especially if it gets all uppity and decides it wants to be a bigger percentage of your body mass, then get it checked out. As long as it does what normal moles do – nothing at all – leave it alone.
Deadly cancers are not common. They get more common when you get old because, you know, you’ve been driving that body around for 90 years and bits are going to wear out. Specifically, that immune system that has, all along, been dealing with cells that try to turn cancerous and finally decides ‘sod it, I’m going to let one grow to see what it does’.
By the time the immune system thinks ‘Oh. That’s what it does,’ it’s far too late.
Some cancers form lumps you can feel. Breast and testicular cancers can be felt from the outside, but even then, the lump might be a cyst or an abscess and not cancerous at all (but still unpleasant). Pancreatic cancer is a tough one. The pancreas is right in the middle, under your stomach, and has no pain receptors. A cancer in there won’t show symptoms until it’s well advanced. There is no way to feel for lumps without drilling a hole big enough to put your hand into.
“Well, the good news is that he didn’t have pancreatic cancer.”
“But, Doc, he’s dead.”
“Yeah, that happens a lot. We’re starting to think it might be the wrong type of drill.”
Okay, let’s look at it from the medic’s point of view. You might be the thirtieth he’s seen today and the other twenty-nine might have been hypochondriacs, shirkers looking for sick notes, and smokophobes I have talked with. Doctors see a lot of people convinced they have cancer when they don’t, thanks to the incessant scare stories put out by the media, charities, and cruel buggers fed up with hand-waving harridans. Faced with some vague symptoms described in a vague way by someone with no medical training and with only Blair’s vague idea of education to help them articulate, what is the doctor to do?
If he assumes it might be cancer every time then the consultants are going to come round to his surgery and stitch his fingers to his toes and his tongue to his navel. They do that when they are annoyed. It’s never reported, the BMA hush it up, but that’s what they do.
If they assume it might not be cancer then if it is, the patient might die. What they tend to do is say ‘Come back in a week or so and we’ll see if it’s better or worse’ because if it’s just a general malaise or a low-level infection it should have started to clear up by then.
But some cancers progress slowly. There might not be any change after a couple of weeks. It’s not better but it’s no worse either. There are no lumps in evidence, no bleeding from anywhere, nothing to definitely diagnose anything at all. Unless it’s leukaemia, the blood tests might not show anything. Perhaps they show an elevated white blood cell count – could mean anything: infection, cancer, stress, anything.
The complaints about having to make multiple visits to a doctor before cancer is suspected are unfounded. It can take multiple visits before cancer is even suspected. It is not as common as the charities dependent on it pretend. It is especially not common in the young. There are many, many things that can cause vague feelings of unwellness, fatigue and internal pain. Curries and whisky, if overdone, can cause that, but if it’s a case of curryitis whiskalia, no need to trouble the doctor. It usually clears up by the afternoon.
Add into this the vague terms used by many patients who end every sentence with ‘innit’ and the absence of any surface evidence of damage and the waves of hypochondriacs and sick-note scroungers and it starts to become easy to see why doctors can sometimes miss a real case.
Then there is The Question.
“Do you smoke?”
Answer ‘No’ and cancer goes straight to the bottom of the list of possibilities. This is not the doctor’s fault. According to the NHS, if you live your life as directed by the Healthist religion, there can never be anything wrong with you and you will never die. NHS doctors have that drummed into them.
The same goes for “How much alcohol do you drink?” Answer ‘None at all’ and a whole range of possibilites are crossed off at once. Average weight for your height? Can’t be diabetes then.
The baker who used to work at Local Shop was, more than once in the few months our paths crossed, carted off in an ambulance because he had fallen into a diabetic coma. I’ve met him in passing since and it has happened again in his new job. He is not at all fat, he eats none of his own baking, drinks no booze at all, and looks like he has spent a lot of time in a gym. Lucky for him he was diagnosed as Type 1 diabetic before all the current lifestyle control nonsense took over. Any doctor would look at him now and think ‘Not obese. Can’t be diabetic’.
He does smoke though so he’d still get all the tests. If he didn’t smoke they’d let him die and never understand why that happened.
I’ve said it many times – if you have never smoked, never drank a drop of hard booze, never scoffed a cheeseburger, tell the doctor you used to. You will get tested for everything. You become a potential notch on the lifestyle-related-disease scorecard and they will search you for anything at all that could be wrong with you.
Not to help you. To get another datapoint for the statistics. ‘Look, look, this guy has seborrheic dermatitis, and he smokes. Therefore it is caused by smoking, That’s a new one for the list’. They love to jump to conclusions and to hell with the science.
As a side effect though, they will find what is wrong with you. It is worth it.
None of those news stories about ‘they missed my cancer’ ever include the line ‘I smoked for years and they didn’t think to check for cancer’ because if you tell them you smoke, it’s the first thing they look for.
Tell them you have never smoked and it’s the last thing they look for.
Worth keeping in mind, I’d say.