Friday, March 29, 2013

Comparisons and Standards

Take two people with the same ailment in the same room and one of the first things they will do is start comparing their ailments, doctors and treatments. This is normal. (People who have not had the ailment are not allowed in these conversations because they will insist on comparing the treatment their cousin's hairdresser's neighbor's dogwalker's mother in law had for a similar but different ailment, was treated by a different treatment protocol, and then died after month's in pain in a greatly emaciated state.)

Its the same as two people who show up at the same event wearing the same shirt, they talk about where they got it and if they like it, etc.

I have other friends with either fibromyalgia, rheumatoid, breast cancer or thyroid cancer. I don't know anyone else who is lucky enough to have all four - I would like to compare with them. I have talked to each of them about what their treatment is, where they go for treatment, how often the see doctors, what tests they receive and all sorts of other things.

One friend was diagnosed with RA last year and goes to the same hospital as me but has a different rheumatologist and her medication makes her sick to her stomach. Another friend is 8 years into her RA diagnosis and she is on completely different set of medications but her RA has been under control for years  now. Mine is still uncontrolled but is slowly being tamed.

When I was at the Thyroid Cancer's Association's ( annual conference when it was held in Boston a few years ago, I found I was probably the only person on the planet who did not have an endocrinologist. I promptly corrected that and now have another doctor for twice a year visits.

Some of my breast cancer friends have different follow ups than me. I see my medical oncologist twice a year because I still am on Femara. I see my radiation oncologist twice a year, but I think that will go to once a year shortly. I have my mammograms with my breast surgeon's nurse practitioner annually. If I was not on Femara I would stop seeing my medical oncologist. One appointment each year with a mammogram will be the long term follow up.

My rheumatologist's office sees me every three months for now and I  have blood tests every eight weeks. I alternate between a nurse practitioner and a doctor. I am not sure when that will slow down - maybe once my RA starts behaving itself. Other people with RA I think see their doctor less and I am jealous.

Finally I see my pain doctor for my bad back and fibromyalgia every 4-6 months. I have friends with back problems who do not have fibromylagia and they see their pain doctor about the same frequency as me.

This was a long way of asking what if this is not following standard protocols? There are standard national medical protocols set up by a variety of authorities which recommend to doctors on what kind of follow up is appropriate for patients. These change periodically and doctors are supposed to stay up to date.

I read a blog post recently written from the oncologist's point of view on how to tell a patient, their previous doctor was over treating them in their follow up for breast cancer. She cites one story of a woman who was eight years out from an early stage breast cancer diagnosis who was getting blood work and follow ups every three months!

I then tried doing some research to see where my treatment and follow ups fit in with the NCCN guidelines. I had to sign up but I feel pretty comfortable on my level of treatment. But that doesn't mean I won't stop comparing with my friends.


j said...

Last time I saw my rheumatolgist he said, okay, see you in six months. I said, why? He said, okay, eight months.

Judy Mintz said...

That was me, Judy Mintz, I hit the wrong key. Grrr.

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