When Found Early Doesn't Translate Into Early Action

Screening Saves Lives. We’re bombarded with the message. Colon cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, bowel cancer, cervical cancer, you name it cancer, heart tests, blood cholesterol tests, on and on… so long as we screen we catch it early and we survive. For better or worse, that is the message seared into my cells.

With so much cancer in our family, my siblings and I live by the message, or we try. We get screened and then some, and silly us, we expect the doctors to follow up and do their part. What good it is if upon discovering a tumor due to proactive screening, you can’t even get a return phone call from the doctor some 2 months down the road!?

In November of last year, my sister learned she has a neuroendocrine tumor in her pancreas, due to proactive screening. We were both stunned and relieved. Stunned to learn she has a tumor, relieved that screening will have saved her life by catching it early. Silly us, we thought that finding it early would translate into addressing it early and effectively. After all, she didn’t get her screening tests done at just any place. No, she went to John Hopkins, claimed to be the Gold Standard in pancreatic cancer detection, research and treatment.

They found the tumor alright, and for that she and we are deeply grateful. Like anyone and everyone diagnosed with cancer, my sister is more than anxious to get that tumor out by just about any means necessary, but despite numerous calls to John Hopkins, the last of which turned into sobbing pleas to consult with her doctor regarding scheduling her surgery, she was told he still was not available, following which he will be gone for a week. We’re talking 2 months now since they found the tumor, and still no date for surgery after being told that John’s Hopkins tends to treat these types of tumors “aggressively.” While she may not be the sickest or most urgent case they have on their scheduling desk, the fact remains that she does have a cancerous pancreatic tumor!

Now if that’s the Gold Standard, I just might have my medals confused. Or at minimum, we’re definitely not talking Gold Standard compassion for patients. Screening might save lives, but I think there’s more to that recipe for survival. That little old tumor found through screening is attached to a sentient human being. Please don’t forget us. Please don’t forget my sister.

Susan Beausang, 4Women.com

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