Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I'm not exactly proud of myself

But I'm not really sorry either.

Early last month, I had blood drawn for what was to be my very last CEA level. Hopefully ever. Yes, that's Carcinoembryonic antigen. It was 4.9 when I was diagnosed with colon cancer 5.5 years ago. The highest it's been since then was in the range of 0.7. Until last month. It hit a whopping 1.9. Normal, but still enough to worry me a little, considering that for the last 4 years, it's been < 0.5. All I really wanted was to repeat the test, but my internist referred me to the oncologist who, for reasons unknown to me, did not return my phone calls. For 3 weeks.

I dropped by his office on Monday and asked the secretary whether he'd gotten the messages. She said she'd see if he had a minute to speak to me. Half an hour later, she returned, chart in hand, to inform me that the doctor said I had nothing to be concerned about. The result was normal. Wrong answer. Even from him it would have been the wrong answer. I can read lab reports and I've been very much aware of the normal values for this particular test for more than 5 years.

"Probably nothing to worry about, but if you'd like we can repeat it in a couple of months just to be sure" would have been OK, but by the time a patient, or in this case former patient, calls 4 times and drops by twice, with no response from the doc, sending out a secretary to pat her on the head is definitely NOT the best approach.

I don't remember everything I said, but the gist of it was that I didn't plan to bet my life that he was guessing correctly. Pretty much what I'd told the internist who thought I didn't need that first colonoscopy. I also remember demanding a copy of my chart. The secretary said she'd have to talk to her manager and 20 minutes later ushered me back to speak to the oncologist.

That's how I ended up in the PET/CT scanner this morning. Overkill, I know but I hope the doctor was right.

Update, 12/13: The doc called today. He was right. Now I just have to worry whether the insurance company will consider this medically necessary. If I have to pay for it myself, it will be worth it for the peace of mind - but don't tell them.


jsdaughter said...

Shame on this doctor for not knowing that "PROBABLY nothing to worry about" are not the words to use when talking about cancer. You did the right thing..

d said...

If "Hx Colorectal Ca, rising CEA, ?recurrence" is not reason enough for the insurance companies to pay for a PET scan, I've been doing my job wrong for the last year and a half.

By the way, I just discovered your blog. Didn't realize this was an old post until just this moment. Out of curiosity, did they end up paying for it?

Judy said...

The insurance company did pay for the PET scan. I'm really glad they did. I hadn't realized the darn things were so expensive. Since then I've had additional reason to be glad I had the PET scan, but that's another story.