March 23 12:39 PM
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Better communication needed between physicians, patients

Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter about non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the fifth most frequent malignancy in the United States, a malignancy which has increased rapidly within the past two decades. It has been reported that there are as many as 250,000 people in the United States living with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and up to 54,000 Americans may have been diagnosed with this malignancy in 2005. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is high among Vietnam veterans.

Recently I read a most excellent and highly recommended article in the April 9, 2007 issue of Newsweek Magazine by Jonathon Alter entitled "My Life With Cancer.'' Mr. Alter points out that doctors from competing institutions are often so competitive that they talk to each other only a couple of times a year at conferences, do lab work on parallel tracks instead of collaborating and, under pressure from hospital lawyers, frequently refuse to share cell lines with other qualified researchers which retards progress towards cures and is clearly unethical. The reading of this article strongly influenced the writing of this letter.

Another article in the December 4, 2007 issue of Ford World Magazine also was an inspiration. The Ford World article reported that on average, a doctor spends only eight minutes with each patient, and that the U.S. spends roughly 16 percent of its gross national product on health care, more than any other country, yet ranks 37th in the world for health care quality.

In the year 2005, my husband went to a Michigan doctor for what he thought might be a hernia. This doctor stated his opinion that it was an enlarged lymphnode and felt the visit to be of mild severity. No blood work was done. Contact was made with our out of state physician who ordered blood work and found my husband to be severely anemic. Thinking that this may be an ulcer, our doctor put him on over the counter medications. We traveled the approximately 1,600 miles to see our out of state doctor and upon examination, discussion, and testing, learned that in addition to the anemia, my husband had a massively enlarged spleen and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Testing included PET/CAT scan, and biopsy. A second opinion was sought on the biopsy sample which confirmed the initial opinion of Follicular non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

My husband had been taking iron pills which he did not tolerate well. After watching a television news broadcast concerning a football player's daily eating of a particular fruit, I told my husband that I felt he might benefit by daily eating of this fruit. Consulting with our physician, the other over the counter medication was continued, and my husband ate daily servings of this particular fruit. Our doctor was in the process of making arrangements to send my husband to a cancer center. We began to notice from daily physical exams that my husband's spleen appeared to be reducing in size. This was confirmed by CAT scan.

To date, my husband has not been to a cancer center, has not been under care of an oncologist, has not had a blood transfusion, chemotherapy, radiation, or spleenectomy. His spleen has continued to reduce in size and is now within normal limits, his appetite and weight have increased, his blood work has shown excellent improvement, and the cancer has decreased considerably. He has had, in the words of his physician, "a remarkable improvement.'' This is, of course, all well documented. All travel expenses, campground fees, co-pays, medication, etc. are paid for out of pocket.

We don't know how this will all turn out since this treatment plan has not been tried before. What we do know is that we are two years down the road in treating my husband's non-Hodgkins lymphoma and the results thus far are remarkable. We hope that this letter will inspire better communication between family physicians and their patients, as well as serious discussion about health care and health care costs in this country.

Susan Sam, Imlay City
August 08, 2007

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