Sunday, January 2, 2011

Of things medical....

I think it's entirely possible that there are red warning notes attached to my files in offices throughout the area to alert medical professionals that they are dealing with a difficult patient.

Consider my dentist's office, which I diligently visit twice annually for a dental cleaning, as does the rest of my family. And nearly every time, the hygienist advises it's time for my annual X-rays and I remind her that I will be declining her lovely offer due to my concern over radiation. I then suggest that perhaps she should repeat her request to me and my children next year, in two years, or maybe not ever again.

This never goes over well with the perky dental hygienists. But my radiation fears are well-known (weren't the Russians going to kill us with it?) to those who made fun of me during all the years I refused to have a microwave oven in my house or to use a cell phone -- although in the interest of full disclosure, I will confess to having eventually surrendered to the convenience of both.

But not to to the annual dental X-rays. I mean, think about it: If the dentist sees a cavity developing via these X-rays, nothing can be done about it anyway until the cavity comes to the surface so it can be filled, right? I have no intention of absorbing extra radiation just to give the dentist an early warning system -- and a few extra bucks in his or her bank account. As you might imagine, this attitude is not warmly embraced at my dental office.

But I was vindicated last week when I heard the former president of the American Cancer Society say on the Dr. Oz show that she won't have dental X-rays either because of radiation concerns.

She made the comment in the context of a piece on the burgeoning rate of thyroid cancer in this country -- and the fact that 75 percent of the cases involve women. And what is a cause of thyroid cancer? Too much radiation.

Although the medical professionals on the program were reluctant to point a finger at any one source, it's pretty easy to figure out where women receive more radiation then men --mammograms. The doctors weren't telling women not to get mammograms, noting their ability to reveal cancer, but they did observe that radiation into the breast "scatters" -- as it does from dental X-rays -- into other parts of the body. They recommended requesting lead aprons that include a piece to cover the thyroid any time you undergo any type of X-ray. That seems reasonable, especially if you enjoy getting those dental bite-wing X-rays every year.

Another place where my medical file has a warning label is the eye doctor's office, the target of numerous telephone calls and visits in my recent quest to replace my glasses with contacts. The adventure continues. A few weeks ago I lost a contact at work so I had to sheepishly call to ask that it be reordered (the eye doctor's office is now on speed dial and I see more of the folks who work there than my children). The lens was on back order so for the following week I returned to my glasses, which did not seem to be working as well as before. In fact, some days I could see better without them.

Five days after I lost the lens, I rubbed my eye during a musical performance at the local theater. You guessed it -- out came the missing contact. I couldn't stop laughing because I was positive I had taken another contact out of that same eye five days earlier. This meant either I had put two contacts in one eye at the same time OR removed one from my right eye and didn't realize it was still on my finger while I removed the one from my left eye, causing me to leave the right eye contact behind. This also explained why my glasses didn't seem to be working like they should.

At my next visit to the eye doctor, I could see that his eyebrows were inching progressivley higher as he read the many notes in my chart recorded by his friendly staff after each of my calls. When I told him about the double-contacts experience, he calmly replied that this process takes time for adjustment.

"But how do you adjust for operator error?" I asked. He laughed, then assured me that the record was held by a guy who put three contacts, each on top of the other, in the same eye. I think he might have been lying but it did make me feel better.

And, as far as I can tell, there was no radiation involved, either.


paula butturini said...

Love this, Pat, though I don't much like the idea that my annual mammogram may give me cancer elsewhere... And as for the contacts, I go this week for a much-needed eye exam, but figure I'll be opting for the dreaded bifocals as I think contacts are beyond me. Can't handle the idea of all that paraphernalia that goes along with it...

MaxWriter said...

You are such a funny writer, Pat! No wait, we're supposed to label it "quirky" according to the Crime Bake panel on humor. Anyway, glad you found the contact at long last. (Remind you to tell you in person my story of something I was SURE was 'up there somewhere' in my adolescence...)

But I'm right there with you on dental xrays. I put them off infinitely and, no, they don't like it one bit.