My 6 Rules for Navigating Cancer and Medical Misdiagnoses

I was misdiagnosed twice before receiving my kidney cancer diagnosis, and along the way, I learned the importance of expert doctors and clinical trials.

I'm 75 years old and was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in 1990 at age 43.

My story begins in 1987 when I woke up one morning with severe back pain and high fever.Hoping the discomfort would pass, I stayed home from work for two days. On the third day, with little improvement, my wife insisted I see a doctor.

I went to consult a local general practitioner in my neighborhood who made a diagnosis which proved to be wrong, prescribed some pills and sent me home.

Rule No. 1: Choose a doctor you know and trust. If you're unsure, go to the ER.

Nevertheless, after a few more days, I started to feel better and returned to my regular routine.

Eighteen months later, I was at my local post office where I almost passed out with the same symptoms. This time, I went to see a nephrologist (a kidney specialist) who prescribed some tests to be done at a local hospital. Again, I received a wrong diagnosis.

Rule No. 2: If you go to the right doctors and they still get it wrong, there's not much you can do. Doctors are human and make mistakes, it's just bad luck.

Another 18 months went by, and then I almost passed out on the subway returning home from work. This time my doctor ordered a CT scan which revealed a mass on my right kidney.

Rule No. 3: If you suspect your doctor screwed up, find another doctor pronto.

Through a connection, I got hooked up with one of the top urology surgeons in New York City who removed my kidney, and through him, a top oncologist for follow up.

Rule No. 4: Try to find the top doctors in their specialty where you live.

Six months later, a follow up chest X-ray and CT scan revealed nodules in my lung. My oncologist sent me to the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland for a clinical trial of an immunology therapy, IL-2.

In May 1991, after six months of treatment, scans revealed the cancer had been significantly reduced, and I have not been treated for kidney cancer since that time.

Rule No. 5: A clinical trial may be a promising treatment option.

Doctors and other medical workers are just like other professionals; most are excellent, some are average, and some are below average. The trick is to get hooked up with those that are excellent. Even though I was misdiagnosed early on, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for some exceptional doctors.

Rule No. 6: Learn about your disease, if you have any doubts about what a doctor is telling you, get a second opinion.

Dedicated doctors and scientists are working hard to find cures every day. It's possible that something they are working on may be effective for you. You must have hope. Cancer is survivable. I am living proof.

This post was written and submitted by Ira D. Wasserman. The article reflects the views of Ira D. Wasserman and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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