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Ask Dr. Gott 5/10
Don't settle for a brush-off
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DEAR DR. GOTT: I have to respond to your reader regarding her breast density.
    I am 41 years old and was diagnosed with my first breast cancer less than three years ago. I should have been diagnosed 17 months prior, but I had a doctor who ignored my symptoms. She regarded my lump as a cyst and told me to stop wearing underwire bras due to the pain I was having. I was not sent for a mammogram until I switched doctors. My cancer was Stage III by the time I was diagnosed. So, no, you cannot be criticized for being too concerned and aggressive. I only wish that I had a doctor such as you to be "too concerned" in the beginning.
    Last November, I found a lump in the tail of my other breast. I immediately went to my oncologist, who in turn sent me to my breast surgeon. The surgeon acted like I was wasting her time, did an ultrasound and regarded it as a "textbook lymph node." I wasn't comfortable with this, so I went to get another opinion. It was cancer again! I cannot emphasize more to anyone who is not comfortable with her first opinion to please get another and another until you ARE comfortable.
    DEAR READER: Your courage and sensible approach to a serious health problem is worth publicizing, because patients need to be taken seriously and their concerns must be addressed without a put-down. I hope your breast surgeon prays every night that she won't be sued. If she can walk away from this in one piece, good luck to her.
    I am not urging female patients to become overly concerned about their health, but I do agree with you that "medical discomfort" needs to be addressed. If you can't solve a health issue with one (or more) doctors, change physicians until you find a practitioner with whom you feel comfortable and confident. And don't put up with arrogance, such as the nonverbal impression "you're wasting my time."
    In my 40 years of medical practice and column writing, I have received letters from readers wishing that I could be their physician. While I view this as a wonderful compliment, it is obviously an impossibility. Now, for the first time, based on your letter, I want to say that I wish that you could have been one of my patients. I would have been honored. I hope other readers and physicians take a page from your book. Physicians are humans and can make mistakes, but patients are people as well and need to be treated respectfully and to have their concerns addressed. No one knows the patient's body as well as the patient. We physicians need to listen to our patients. Most often, if they feel something is not right, something is not right. Thanks for writing, and good luck in the future.
    To give you related information on your condition, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Breast Cancer and Disorders."
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