Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pay Attention To How Your Doctor Treats You! OR Finding the Right Dermatologist!

Please read this to the end, no matter how unnecessary and unrelated to your present needs you may find it. It may just save your life one day. Tuck it away.

This is an earlier note on Melanoma Prayer Center. As we advocate for you to keep a check on your skin and moles and visit your dermatologist at least annually, there are things you need to look for in a dermatologist and even your primary care physician if that's who you take your skin issues to. As you read this, you'll learn what to look for in a dermatologist. It is also followed, at the end, by advice that a dermatologist posted on MPC in response to this.

On MPC this note is titled "Dear Dermatologists, We Need You!":

I know there are dermatologists and people in other medical fields who visit MPC and that tells me a great deal about you. It tells me that you are in the front of your field in understanding that you are usually our first line of defense against melanoma; you are knowledgeable of melanoma; and you take us, your patients with melanoma seriously. It tells me that you care about connecting with us on a deeper level outside office hours. I cannot thank you enough! But we need more from you, please.

As with any field: medical, religious, legal, technological, you name it, there are specialties. Even within "specialties" there are "sub-specialties." Dermatology is no different and because it's your field, you want to grow and get better. There are dermatologists who are very knowledgeable and stay up-to-date about melanoma, and there are dermatologists who aren't and don't. Their interests are in other dermatological arenas. (You know that because some of your patients have left them to come to you). And that's natural and fine to have those other interests, up to a point, and that's where we need your help desperately.

Many of us are patients of dermatologists who really know very little about melanoma. We need you to encourage your colleagues to learn something about it and about the human nature of people concerned about it. This is what we need from our dermatologists, and please, share this with them:

We need you to make sure everyone in your office is familiar with melanoma, even the person who answers your phone and schedules appointments. Make sure they understand that when someone calls saying they have a rapidly changing mole, freckle, or other place and need to see you...make sure your staff knows that can be deadly and to make an early appointment for that person even if it means working them in. Tell them NOT to put that person off for months until your next opening. I, personally, will thank you for that one!

We need you to see us as people and take our concerns seriously. When we come to you with a place on our body that we are concerned about and ask you to remove it and have it sent to pathology, PLEASE do not tell us "it's nothing." Do not tell us "we'll keep a check on it." Simply remove it and have it pathed.

Know enough about melanoma to know that there is no special look to it and know enough to know that watching it may kill me.

Ask me about my family history with melanoma and know my own history with it!

Know that unnecessary knots and anxieties are created in me when you do not take my concerns seriously and send me away with the suspicious place I came in with. If I trust my gut, why can't you?

We need you to understand that it's OUR mass, mole, freckle, change, concern; they will be OUR stitches and scars; it will be OUR recovery. Not yours.

And, if you call it wrong, it will be OUR melanoma journey and possibly OUR death. None of that will be yours. We don't ask for removal procedures for the fun of it or because we want another set of stitches and another scar.

We ask because we're afraid of what we see and feel and we don't want to die because of it.

We also know that we may have many, many suspicious places removed and come back "nothing," and we'll be relieved. And we'll be back the next time there's another one. Please never get to the point where you start telling us "They've all been nothing so far and this one looks like the rest and is nothing, too." You may remove twenty "nothings" but that twenty-first one may be the one that's "something."

If melanoma is beyond your area of expertize, PLEASE refer us to a dermatologist who knows about it. PLEASE! Don't put our lives in danger because you can't swallow your pride.

And, when that place does come back positive for melanoma, please refer us to a melanoma specialist oncologist. Know the one(s) in our area, even it requires a drive to get there. Let how far I'm willing to travel be MY decision, not yours.

Again, doctors reading this from MPC, you're already doing this, and more, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Will you please advocate for us when you're with your colleagues and at those conventions and CEU sessions?

Our lives are just as much in your hands as they are oncologists if we ever do get melanoma. We're trusting you and counting on you.

Please don't let us down. One day, you may be one of us and you'll understand. Put yourself in our shoes. They aren't comfortable.

Thank you and God bless you all!

As I promised above, advice from a dermatologist:

Vera Soong Hamrick wrote:
"I am old school. If you want to find a "good dermatologist", and this is just my own opinion, ask 1. Are you willing to do a true total body skin exam ( ENTIRE cutaneous surface including all creases and scalp; I also examine mouth, nose (found a curable septal melanoma once) and external genitalia and perianal area). If not that day then schedule for one. 2. Do you actively see inpatient consultations and are the medical staff of the local hospital? 3. Do you do volunteer work with indigent patients? 4. Do you have a good working relationship with other physicians who also csre for melanoma patients? (as noted on the post) That is what you are looking for and me too."

Dr. Hamrick actually commented three times and all of her valuable comments are gathered together in one note. To read that note go here:

There are wonderful, knowledgeable-about-melanoma doctors who are our first line of defense.

And I am grateful.