* * Anonymous Doc

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"We found something on your pancreas. We need to take further tests."

"What is it?"

"We don't know. That's why we need to do more tests."

"No, I mean my pancreas. What is that?"

"It's an organ in your body. It produces insulin and other things your body needs."

"Like the liver?"

"It's different from the liver, but, sure, it's an organ, and so is the liver."

"I had a problem with my gall bladder a few years ago. Is this the same thing?"

"No, that's a different organ. We're talking about the pancreas today."

"Do I really need it?"

"The pancreas? Yeah, it's important."

"But my heart is fine."

"Yes, but--"

"Well, that's the important one."

"No, the pancreas is important. We need to run some more tests to see what's going on."

"As long as it's not my heart."

We need some sort of basic medical education class taught in grade school. It's crazy, we make people learn math and foreign languages, but people can finish school without knowing what's going on in their body, at even the most basic level. Yes, there's high school biology, but that's not really about the human body and how to take care of it and what's important to know. There's health ed, but that's very limited. I don't know, so many of my patients know less than nothing-- they don't know what cholesterol is and what foods have it, they don't know they have two lungs, two kidneys, one heart, one liver.

Here I was, thinking I would have to calm this patient down because we think she might have pancreatic cancer. Instead, I felt like shaking her and telling her, hey, you should be worried. This might be serious. But she's like, oh, if it's not my heart, I'm fine. No, you're not! The heart is only one organ! You have others! They're important! Argh.


  1. Too dumb for cancer. It'll be pancreatitis.

  2. I think you'll appreciate this song

  3. Too busy with your dates to blog. soooooooo sad

  4. Yes, well I happen to be a software developer. What's more i used to do tech support in my distant past. You would not believe the calls we would get. It's hard to explain how many people fail to see the relationship between their computer not working and the fact that there are no lights anywhere in the house.

    Besides, I am sure there is only a handful of doctors that can list the different components of a computer - a piece of technology they use every day and depend upon.

    Every specialist has stories about ignorance of what they think are the "basic things".
    My heart works very well without me being aware that it exist. I can't list the amount of cholesterol in all of the things i eat. I might be able to mention some foods with higher concentrations - but some people decided that there's good and bad cholesterol so now i don't know which is which. And i live in a country with a very high awareness of healthy eating (Israel).

    My point is that experts tend to overestimate the common knowledge pertaining to their fields.

  5. I live in Germany. I got taught which organ's where and what their purposi is in biology class ^_~