By Dr. Timothy & Melissa Quinn
Jackson Advocate Guest Writers
There are daily scenarios that I encounter that can serve as a wealth of information for others. Many of these scenarios involve suffering or celebrating based on decisions. I often share these real-world situations to inspire informed decisions for others.
The first patient was a fifty-nine-year-old housewife that came in because she was experiencing excruciating back pain and generalized fatigue. After she shared that she had not seen a doctor in over ten years, we convinced her to allow us to perform a full physical. Her vitals and initial labs revealed that her blood pressure was elevated, but she did not have diabetes. But during the physical exam, I noted that the entire left outer quadrant of her right breast was hard as a rock. What was also alarming was the fact that she had tissue in her bra because the nipple of her breast was expressing (squeezing out) blood and fluid. I was able to get her a same day appointment with a surgeon. The surgeon later informed me that she had late-stage breast cancer that had metastasized (spread) to multiple organs and her vertebrae (back) which accounted for the fatigue and back pain. The surgeon also shared that her case was untreatable. She was placed in hospice for end-of-life care.
The second patient was a sixty-two-year-old bus driver. He came into the clinic complaining of discharge from his left nipple. On the physical exam, he had a distinctive left breast lump with no tenderness. He also had redness of the skin over the lump and the nipple which was expressing a clear discharge upon squeezing. I referred him to a surgeon that later reported back to me that he diagnosed the patient with an earlier stage of breast cancer. After surgery, and treatments, the man’s life was saved.
The third patient was a fifty-two-year-old school teacher who had consistently come in for a routine yearly physical every year for the last ten years. With a smile, she informed me that she had been exercising and eating healthier. I confirmed that she had lost ten pounds since her visit last year. After the physical, I complimented her on her normal blood pressure, normal glucose and cholesterol levels, and the fact that she had no abnormal physical findings on her physical exam. She asked if it was necessary to follow up on the mammogram. I encouraged her to have the test, and explained that cancer starts out as microscopic cells that cannot be felt during the physical exam. I received a report two weeks later indicating that the mammogram was abnormal and required follow up. The now nervous patient agreed to follow up with the surgeon after a great deal of encouragement from me. After an outpatient procedure, and follow-up testing, the surgeon informed me and the patient that she did have cancer. It was successfully removed with no residual traces. She was cured!!
The tale of these three patients provides a very valuable lesson that can literally be the difference between life and death. Don’t wait! Get checked out! Early diagnosis, through timely screenings before you have symptoms, is “KEY”!