I went to see my oncologist for my six-month checkup yesterday. All was routine, other than my blood pressure being 131 over something when it's usually in the 115 range, even when I see my family doctor. No anxiety there. When he asked what had changed in the last six months, I told him about the endoscopy I had in December, which turned out to be normal. But what prompted it ...

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If you’re like many of us, the minute you or someone you care about is diagnosed with something, you go online to do research. You may even reach out to your Facebook friends. You’re far less likely to think, “Hey! Now that I have cancer/diabetes/MS, I better get a Twitter account!” If you can’t understand what people get out of Twitter, this post is for you. Reason #1. Real-time conversations with people who’ve been there. It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with cancer, ...

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I found a recent Associated Press article on an aspect of the new health care law that many of us may have overlooked. It requires consumer-friendly summaries of what insurance plans cover, a provision that now seems to be at risk. The insurance industry is up in arms about implementation costs and added regulatory burdens. (There’s a good story at NPR, which includes a link to an example of what ...

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I see my oncologist for my twice-yearly checkup tomorrow, and while my visits have been blissfully mundane over the last three years, this time I actually have a list of questions and a couple of concerns over the lab results from my latest physical. It’s probably nothing, but once you’ve had cancer you can’t help but wonder which “nothing” is actually the edge of trouble’s long shadow. My family doctor sees no cause for ...

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I caught the tail end of a recent #hcsm (health-care social media) tweetchat and it looked to be a good one. I saw a few comments about teaching bedside manner and whether it’s a thing of the past (oh, how I hope not). It occurred to me that sharing a real-life story could be instructive. I put on a brave face when I got a mastectomy for stage 0 DCIS ...

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One of the many things I didn’t know about breast cancer before I got a front-row seat was just how many choices it entails. I didn’t realize that so much of the experience wouldn’t have clear-cut, yes/no answers. You’re confronted by your first choice before you even know you have cancer. When my mammogram revealed suspicious specks, I was presented the choice of a stereotactic or surgical biopsy. I opted for the ...

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My family doctor recently announced he’s retiring from medicine after 37 years, and my husband and I were his patients for more than 18 of those years.  We had a lot of one-offs before finding him, but he was worth the wait. I want to explain why he inspired our loyalty. He saved my husband’s mobility. A glass coffee pot separated from its handle and a shard went straight into ...

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I had never heard of ductal carcinoma in situ before I was diagnosed with it. Nor did I have a clue that breast cancer could be classified as stage 0; I only thought it came in stages 1 through 4. And I’m far from alone; most people I talked to had never heard of it either, including a ...

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Last year it was the "Save the Boobs" video. This year it’s the “I (Heart)Boobies” bracelets. Some people were very offended by the video’s slow-motion close-ups that were more reminiscent of a beer commercial. Now, some schools are banning kids from wearing the bracelets. And in a recent post on Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory made the eloquent case that we’re more than the sum of our body parts, and recounted her mom’s battle with metastasized ...

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‘Tis the season for upper respiratory infections, and since I couldn’t tell if what I had was garden-variety crud or crud that needed antibiotics, I went to the doctor. I handed over my $20 co-pay at the reception desk, where they have an electric candle burning, a tradition when a soldier is off to war. Their soldier is my family doctor, who’s in Afghanistan as a colonel with the Army ...

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At the risk of dating myself, I recall a time when “The Three Rs” summed up American education. In case you aren’t familiar with this phrase, it stands for "Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic." I think it’s high time we develop “Three Rs” for patients. Right now, Patient World is ruled by “E” words such as “empowered” and “engaged,” with “empowered” the big one. I think “empowered” is turning into a label, ...

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Whether you’re newly diagnosed with DCIS or a more advanced form of breast cancer, you’ll notice it has a big time impact. One of the things that surprised me was just how much breast cancer chews up your schedule. I had something like 38 appointments in 20 weeks, and this did not include radiation, which was not in my treatment plan. In case you’re wondering what all those appointments were for, I had two ...

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I just don’t understand how someone can live in this day and age and deny the effectiveness of scientifically sound medical treatment when dealing with breast cancer. I was completely flummoxed when I came across the in-depth and thoughtful post “A horrifying breast cancer ‘testimonial’ for ‘holistic’ treatment” on Respectful Insolence, written by a surgeon and scientist who uses the pen name Orac. Like others who came before and surely will come after ...

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I’ve been hearing and reading a lot lately about how the doctor-patient relationship is under siege. There are many reasons for this, ranging from care decisions increasingly being made by insurers to the shortage of primary care physicians, to patient empowerment.  I didn’t quite understand how patient empowerment could be a threat, until I started thinking about the recent perceptual shift from patients to health-care consumers. I agree with the consumer ...

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