I am sure we have all been tempted, and some of us have even given into the impulse, to search our random symptoms on the net, in the hope that we will find answers and perhaps even reassurance. But often is the case where we come away from the experience instead thinking that we have terminal cancer or some unusual and terrifying incurable degenerative disease. And those of us who have had that experience seem to preach to others the dangers of searching for answers in this way. Doctors often advise, on no account for their patients to research their health independently and when a patient seems to be informed, a power game ensues and the patient very swiftly, is put in their ‘rightful’ place.
With her permission, I am retelling one of my patient’s recent experiences at her doctor’s surgery. She had been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst by her private gynaecologist and went back to her doctor a few months later, wanting to pursue a repeat blood test and scan through the NHS. She was tested for, among others, the CA-125 marker, which detects ovarian cancer, and she called for the results a week later. She was told that ‘the range’ is between 0 and 35 and hers was 17. The receptionist, who gave her the results, did not know what that meant and said the doctor would call her. When the doctor did, she also said that she did not know what the results indicated and said for her to wait for her referral to a specialist a few weeks later.
Frustrated and anxious, my patient turned to the internet for answers. Of course there was a great deal of information that could have scared her if she had been susceptible. However, she took from her research that a CA-125 level can be raised because of a cyst, fibroid or other inflammation, not necessarily as a result of ovarian cancer. I confirmed this to her as well when she came to see me. Even though not ‘medically trained’, and certainly not a specialist in gynaecology, or oncology for that matter, I have six years training as a homeopath and keep myself informed and am forever learning. I have enough clinical experience to be able to hold the space for patients and enough care to research the questions that I might not know how to answer instantly.
I too was appalled that her GP could not offer her some simple reassurance and understanding of what the blood result might mean. I welcome your thoughts and a sharing of experiences.