All high school students should be forced to take a basic health care class-- not just the sex ed classes most kids get, but something that teaches everyone a little bit about medical tests and medication and what cancer is and what MRIs can show and what constitutes good nutrition. The lack of knowledge among so many of my patients is astounding-- but when I think about it, it's not like my family knows any more than this. Educated people, uneducated people, it doesn't matter all that much. No one knows anything.
I had a patient today who didn't know what a stethoscope was.
I had another patient who came in the other day with a tumor the size of an eggplant. It's metastatic cancer, growing quickly, he probably has a couple of months left. But this must have been noticeable for at least the past six months, if not longer. And yet no doctor visit until now. When one side of your body has something growing that makes it twice the size it used to be and it's turning purple and it's lumpy-- go to a doctor! I see how people can ignore something that seems like a cold, I see how people can ignore a general feeling of malaise for a little while-- they shouldn't, but I can see how it happens. Big lumpy growths, I don't understand. Not normal. Go seek medical attention.
People convince themselves nothing can possibly be wrong with them. Or they just don't know. I asked one woman, in her 70s, when her last mammogram was. "Oh, I never had any problems," she said. Yeah, but when was your last mammogram? "Oh, I never went, I never had any problems." Sure, you don't have any problems, until you do. I've had patients who tell me they've never been to a dentist-- let alone had a colonoscopy when they're supposed to. We need some basic preventative care education-- what you need to do to best help yourself, what you can do to make some real impact in your chance of staying alive a little longer. You find things early, we can sometimes fix them. You wait until blood is pouring out of your ears, it's probably too late!