Looking Out For Number One
Last updated: March 2019
I’ve said this before, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be saying it again. Listen up, friends, because this is important for you to know: you are your own best advocate when it comes to treatment of your skin cancer. And not just your skin cancer, actually, but treatment of any of your medical conditions.
A suspicious area
I’m going to share something with you to show how important this is. As a little bit of background, last summer I had my yearly mammogram. A suspicious area was seen on the film, so another mammogram was ordered.
The radiologist was still concerned, so a stereotactic biopsy was ordered. This was a very stressful couple of weeks in my life, and it turned out that the suspicious area was (thankfully) scar tissue from a previous skin cancer surgery.
A bad feeling
Recently, I had a six-month follow-up mammogram. I expected good news given that six months ago everything was fine, but I wasn’t given good news. The radiologist who read my film while I was there wanted another set of films. Then he wanted to talk with me. He said that he wasn’t sure the area in question was actually scar tissue and that I should "just have surgery to have it taken out."
He handed me cards for two surgeons at the hospital whom he recommended and told me to pick one and call to get the surgery scheduled. I thanked him for the cards, but I did not make the phone call to schedule surgery. This situation wasn’t sitting well with me. The doctor seemed a little too flippant to me about just going ahead to schedule surgery, and I’m not a big fan of procedures or surgeries based on a ‘maybe.’
Getting a second opinion
Instead of scheduling surgery, I called the office of a doctor who specializes in benign and malignant breast diseases. I wanted a second opinion. I’ve heard she is the best of the best, and fortunately, I was able to get an appointment within three weeks.
At the appointment, this doctor was very thorough. She went over my extensive medical history with skin cancer, did a physical exam, and had her radiologists review my initial mammogram films. She then ordered a “BB film” to be taken while I was there. She reviewed those films with her radiologists, then reviewed with me my initial films and the BB film (this is the first time anyone had actually reviewed my films with me), and gave me the news that the stereotactic biopsy I had previously had actually been done on the wrong area on me.
Avoiding unnecessary procedures
She then gave me the good news, though, that the suspicious area is indeed scar tissue from my previous skin cancer surgery. The doctor said my instincts were right to get a second opinion and that it was good that I had. She said that if I had scheduled surgery it would have been an unnecessary procedure. Let that sink in. I could have been scheduled for an unnecessary procedure had I not advocated for myself. Isn’t that a scary thought?
You are your own best advocate
Friends, medicine is not an exact science. Doctors can and do make mistakes, not only in diagnoses but also in judgment calls. Because of skin cancer, I had ‘false positive’ readings of my mammograms. But because of a long history with skin cancer, I’ve learned how to advocate for myself.
Remember, you are your own best advocate. You have a right to have a voice in your treatment. If you and your doctor are in agreement on your treatment plan, that’s wonderful. But if something doesn’t feel quite right to you, or you need more time to think it over, or you want to do your own research, it’s okay to say so. Self-care is not selfish; you need to look out for number one!
Do you sunscreen in the fall?