Imagine if you or a loved one was diagnosed with cancer. Many of us are familiar with the panic and devastation that such a diagnosis causes. Now imagine that doctors knew that the cancer was there but didn’t tell you for more than a year. Meanwhile, the cancer had time to grow and spread. What would you do?
For many people, this is not a “what if” but a reality.
MSNBC recently reporting on the story of Peggy Kidwell, who’s cancer continued to eat away at her body for a year, while her mammogram report sat idle on the desk of an orthopedic surgeon, where it was mistakenly misdirected. It wasn’t until Kidwell showed up at her annual mammogram that the error was discovered.
When Kidwell has her routine exam that previous year and didn’t hear from her doctor, she assumed that everything was okay. Her doctor assumed that she never got the exam in the first place; there was no test result present in her file. It was then that her doctor went back and was able to locate the old results, which revealed the presence of breast cancer.
If I can give you one piece of advice about being an advocate for yourself and you loved one, it is this: always confirm the results of any medical tests that you have, even if they are routine. I have some experience with this. Confirming the test results of a member of my family led to immediate treatment. If I hadn’t called, there would have been a delay of three weeks, when someone in the medical facility got around to actually informing us (unaware that we had already received the results).
Most of the time, our doctors or lab facilities do inform us in a timely manner. I know that if results are normal, we will get a letter saying just that. But if no letter arrives and no phone call take place, it is important to be proactive and request the results directly.
How soon should you call? Find out how long it will take to get test results back, and depending on the tests needed (routine versus a possible serious condition) follow up accordingly. No news is not necessarily good news, unfortunately.