I usually don’t like to criticize our health care system. It’s great that it is free for all. But availability: that’s a different story altogether, i.e., waiting a year for an appointment, or four hours in the ER for two stiches. Since it’s Movember, Prostate Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to share a story I heard on the radio last week.
One day, a 40-year-old Hamilton man had a persistent, nagging cough. His family doctor sent him for a chest x-ray. The x-ray did show some opacity, i.e., some areas with an abnormal whitish color vs. the normal dark colored tissue of healthy lungs. The opacity was near the middle of the chest where the two lungs connect. This area is filled with lymph nodes and it is the usual area where cancers develop. So after an X ray, as is the standard procedure, he was sent for a CT (a more detailed picture using many x-ray pictures) of the chest and then for a biopsy. He was told that he has a condition called Sarcoidosis. This is not a dangerous diagnosis, but it requires long term therapy with steroids. However, the cough persisted, and he was sent for a biopsy after a 6-month waiting period. (A biopsy involves going to the lungs through the air pipe with a flexible scope and taking a tissue sample in the area that shows abnormalities on the CT scan.) This time, he was told he has high-grade cancer and his chances of survival are very slim. He and his family were absolutely shocked. Here is a man in his prime, with a wife and very young daughters who are looking forward to very happy lives and many fond memories together — that were about to end.
Time passed and the cough continued but the man did not get sicker. His wife repeatedly told him that he looks healthy and that he is not deteriorating as someone with cancer would be. So he decided to go to the US for a second opinion. Another biopsy was performed and — guess what? No cancer. So he went back to the oncology hospital in Hamilton and was sent for another biopsy after a few months of waiting. He was found to have no cancer. An investigation was initiated and the hospital concluded that his samples were mixed up in the laboratory with the samples of a cancer patient. According to the hospital, the actual cancer patient was also told he has cancer, so that the mix-up involved one patient.
In my opinion, this always happens when you have a one-tier health care system controlled by the government and funded only by taxpayers. Not enough money is allocated by the government to health care, not to mention the shortage of doctors and hospital staff – another money-saver at the patients’ expense. A two-tier system — which involves free social health care for people who can’t afford it and private for people who can— solves this problem. It is essentially the combination of the Canadian and the US system and it has a long proven record in European countries, which are considered to have the best health care systems in the world (e.g., Holland, Norway and Switzerland).
So how does this relate to prostate cancer? For one, every man should begin prophylactic prostate exams at the age of 40 and every year thereafter. This beats being diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 50. The digital rectal exam is very uncomfortable and embarrassing. In Canada the test is always performed manually, simply because it’s cheaper. The problem is that the manual exam is not nearly as precise as when the physician uses an ultrasound probe instead of his finger. However, an ultrasound probe test is more expensive so you will not get it in this country. Solution? You can go to the US, pay $200 and get the ultrasound probe. This test is not nearly as embarrassing, (for obvious reasons), and by going to the US and getting the test done privately, you are drastically reducing the risk of a hospital lab mix-up and consequently a cancer misdiagnosis. Just imagine what would happen if the man from Hamilton had listened to his Canadian doctors. He would undergo unnecessary chemotherapy, radiation, possibly surgery and months — if not years —of psychological trauma.
See you next time.
For more sage advice from Dr. Karol and for natural health product recommendations, visit vitarock.com.