by Johanna Patricia A. Cañal, MD, MHA, MSc
Does it seem to you that your doctor wants too many tests done? More blood, more imaging, another urine test? Does he just want you to part with your money?
It may seem so, but there is good reason for this.
- Many different diseases manifest the same way – that cough? That could be an allergy, some kind of pneumonia, tuberculosis, a heart problem or even cancer. It could also be a minor irritation from something you ate. It could be a bit of food blocking your airway. In other words, it can be almost anything. Don’t feel bad that you were asked to have blood tests, a chest x-ray or CT scan and possibly an ECG. You might even need a bronchoscopy, a test where a scope is inserted down your airway. Doctors really just need to know what they’re dealing with. Why?
- There are many ways to treat diseases. If it’s a bacterial infection, one needs antibiotics. If it’s an allergy, an anti-histamine would address it. Sometimes, surgery may be necessary. Many diseases are totally treatable…if doctors knew exactly what you have. Doctors cannot work based on a hunch or a guess. Imagine receiving chemotherapy for a simple infection just because the doctor felt like it was cancer. How awful is that? Treatment must be tailored to the patient.
- Treatment is expensive. There is no single treatment that will solve all problems. If that were the case, then there would be zero need for any test. On the other hand, doctors can’t treat for everything. You cannot be given 6, 7 or 8 medicines in the hopes that one of them would work. You cannot be referred to a surgeon unless the disease is something that can be solved by a surgeon.
And nowadays, when our medical tests have become so specific, more and more specialized tests may be necessary. So be patient with your doctor. He/she is following a diagnostic process that is best for you. It may take some time, but in the end, it is all for you.
This short article is the beginning of a series of articles that is designed to make health care more understandable to non-doctors.
As a way of disclosure, I am a radiologist and a radiation oncologist. My strengths, therefore, are diagnosing illness, particularly cancer, and cancer treatment. Thus, I will be talking about medical tests and what these are about.
I shall also be talking about the dreaded disease, cancer. In the 2nd decade of the 21st century, cancer is the #4 cause of death worldwide. NUMBER 4! It used to be #10. It has obviously been going up. The number 1 and 2 killers are cardiovascular diseases…translated into heart attacks and strokes. Number 3 is pneumonias and lung diseases.
The previous century was known as the century of infectious diseases. The most common causes of disease and death were bacterial and viral pneumonia and tuberculosis. The present century is the century of the lifestyle disease. That is, infections don’t play as big a part as lifestyle diseases. What are those? Heart disease, strokes, cancers and injuries/accidents.
But then again, the 21st century has just started, and we already have a pandemic. One never knows what will happen in the next 10, 20 or 30 years. Thus, this series will discuss a range of topics, hopefully the topics most relevant to you.
If there is a topic that you want clarified, please do drop me an e-mail at [email protected]. Please just fill in the subject line with: [SULIT] Your question
Johanna Patricia A. Cañal, MD, MHA, MSc