I do not know if it is me, or if everyone has stories like this, but here is an example of what NOT to say to a patient:
I decided to go to the walk in clinic two days ago because I was unable to get in to see my GP until mid-January. I went because about a 10 mos to a year ago I got this small bump on my right eyebrow. I had no idea what it was, but it did nothing until about 4-5 weeks ago when it began growing rapidly. It had also become very itchy. I looked at it the other day and wondered if it was ring worm, although it didn't quite look like that because it wasn't exactly round like ringworm is. It was more uneven around the edges. Anyways, I had ringworm from my cats years ago and I didn't want it again, so relatively unworried, (because it's completely curable), I went to the clinic.
The doctor looked at it and said it definitely wasn't ringworm and that she wanted to get a second opinion; so she asked another doctor to come look at it. He looked closely at it and said: "There is a type of skin cancer that is very deadly, and it kills a person very quickly". He then paused for what seemed like an eternity.
During that pause I think, "Great, I have found medication to stop my depression and suicidal thoughts, only to find out I am going to die in the next few months". The irony of this situation is not lost on me.
As my panic begins to build he pipes in, "...but this isn't that type of cancer". I think: "WTF?" He leaves and I cannot remember what he said after he said it isn't the deadly cancer. All I still hear is "deadly cancer" and "kills very quickly". This phenomenon, not hearing things after devastating news, happened when my Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I used to carry a notebook to my Mom's Dr's appointments, because I'd leave the appointment and not have a clue what had been discussed.
I asked the initial Dr. what the consulting Dr. said. She said, "it is either Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) or it is a wart (although it does not really look like a wart)". She said it does not matter because BCC is a very slow growing cancer and the treatment for both is the same...freeze off with liquid nitrogen over a period of 4-5 weeks. I let her freeze it and booked another appointment, but when I got home I felt really angry at myself.
Why had I not insisted on a biopsy? What if it was cancer, how am I going to know if it is gone? She seemed really unsure about what to do if it was cancer. She even asked the other doctor if she should refer me to a dermatologist. I do not feel confident about the projected treatment.
I also have read that BCC can be really disfiguring if it is not dealt with in a timely manner and can metastasize if not treated properly. The growth is on my face, on the far right of my right eyebrow. I do not want a huge scar on my face. Something happens when I am faced with an authority figure. I shut down and do not have the ability to stand up for what I want.
I got home and decided I needed to see my Family Doctor. I phoned and told them what had happened and I have an appointment late next week. I am going to ask for a biopsy and a referral to a dermatologist. Even though I really trust and like my Family Doctor this request will be so hard for me, because it means questioning the original Doctor's authority. A task I dread.