I have always been a strong advocate of listening to your own body to make medical decisions for you. There was a story in CNN about a patient who insisted on getting tested for cancer and got the correct diagnosis by going against the doctor’s advice. This story provoked strong reactions from people with two different view points. Some applauded her decision and encouraged people to look out for their own health despite reassurances from the doctor. Others cautioned people not to take this too seriously because there is no evidence what she did would be beneficial for the population at large. They are concerned that the media may be giving a bad example and feeding the hypochondriacs who would demand all sorts of tests and raise the cost of healthcare for all.
Here is what I think.
I think that healthcare should be about you. It is not about your doctor or the policymakers or someone in the news. You are the only person that has the most to gain or lose by the outcome of your condition. You can only make the best healthcare decision for you if you listen to your body.
When you visit a doctor and describe what you feel, you are giving out the most important information the doctor needs to make your diagnosis. What you describe to your doctors are your symptoms. Your symptoms are the absolute basic data the doctor needs to build the diagnostic thought process. The doctor then uses medical knowledge about those symptoms to pursue the right diagnosis. When the doctor thinks he has the right diagnosis, he will tell you what to do and you are supposed to listen to the doctor.
This only works if the doctor truly listened to you when you described your feelings. If the doctor knew how exactly you felt, he would have the perfect data to analyze. In reality, it is not possible for you to let your doctor feel exactly what you feel. Even if the doctor listened to you properly, it is hard to tell him your exact feelings when you get sick. Sometimes, your body tries to tell you something but you do not really know what you are feeling. Sometimes, you just feel like your body is saying that something is terribly wrong, but you are not able to pinpoint what it is.
If you truly listen to your body and follow your instinct, you will get to the truth sooner than your doctor does. Your brain has a direct connection to your body. You feel what your body is trying to say. You doctor can only analyze the superficial data, he does not have the inside information that you do. When you truly feel like your body is telling you that you have cancer, you can not go wrong by pursuing it until you get to the truth.
This does not mean that everyone should get tested for all kinds of cancer all the time in hope of catching something early. It may not be the right thing to do. It is not right to get tested for a cancer just because you heard about someone dying of cancer in the news. Your body is different and your cancer risks are different. If you want to get tested for cancer just because someone else had it, then I advise you to follow your doctor’s recommendations and only get tested if the doctor recommends it. But, if you want to get tested for a cancer because your body is trying to tell you tell you something and you feel like it could be cancer, go ahead and ignore your doctor’s advice and follow your instinct.