Saturday 20 September 2014

Doctor's Orders: No time like present for check-up

Most of us put off visiting the doctor at some stage, but it's important to put your health first.

Health Care Divides New German Coalition...BERLIN - OCTOBER 13: A family doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to a patient's breathing at her office on October 13, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. German political parties currently involved in federal government coalition negotiations, including the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the business-oriented German Free Democrats (FDP), are currently haggling over a restructuring of Germanys' Health Fund, or Gesundheitsfonds, the fund that provides the basis for Germany's state health care system. The CSU is pushing for more flexibilty in how the system is funded in order to allow for freer competition between the 180 different health insurance companies within the state health care system. The health care negotiations are part of broader negotiations between the CDU/CSU and the FDP in the creation of a new coalition government following nationwide elections in Germany last September. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)...Non

'Procrastination is the enemy of achievement, Doctor," said Mrs Figgis to me the other day. (You ignore the wisdom of Mrs Figgis at your peril.)

She was referring to Mr Figgis's lack of progress with clearing the shed, but it is my belief that that truism can be applied to more than himself's preference for watching snooker when he should be stacking paint pots. I think it can be applied to all kinds of things.

That said, I'm a pretty able procrastinator myself. As my weekly deadline for this very column looms nearer, I notice my interest in TV programmes about storm defences and my desire to sort the hot press increases exponentially.

So deferring today what can be done tomorrow, is something we all do, especially if the task at hand is something we aren't too pushed about, or equally we feel is not really necessary or important. It's something I unfortunately see repeatedly, in terms of how people deal with their health.

Many of us know we're due a smear test, cholesterol check, prostate exam or a mammogram but we blithely ignore or possibly run away from this fact, in the sincere hope that it'll all be alright, when we eventually get around to it. We think it – whatever it may be – will never happen to us. But sadly that isn't always how things work out.

I had a recent case of a lovely man who was having some heartburn and I duly arranged a 'camera down' to have it checked. But this lovely man wasn't the keenest on hospitals or tests, so he kept cancelling the appointments and long fingering the test. Until eventually he came back with symptoms a little worse and I again arranged an endoscopy. This time, because he was feeling unwell, he decided to go ahead with it. A gastric cancer was diagnosed in the hospital – which is treatable – but would have definitely been smaller six months earlier at the original visit.

An almost identical thing happened with a young woman. She'd been experiencing bleeding from the back passage – a very common ailment, which always needs to be checked but usually turns out to be haemorrhoids. I sent her for a colonoscopy but due to work commitments, she kept cancelling and rescheduling until eventually she lost the referral letter and even the sense that she needed the test.

It was eight months before she returned after some further bleeding. Her rectal cancer was also treatable but almost certainly would have resulted in a less invasive surgery, had the scope been done, when it was originally requested.

These were private patients. Their tests weren't held up by waiting lists. They were held up by the fact that all of us regularly fail to prioritise our health ahead of the other more immediately pressing things in our lives. Or in the face of the minor unpleasantness that a medical test involves, we postpone or avoid having it done altogether. And I'm not bringing this up to be alarmist. Worrying about your health never did anyone any good – attending to your health does.

Your health is your most valuable asset. Yet it's our house, our car and our business we worry about losing. If you've symptoms that need to be looked at – make an appointment. And if you're due a test – get it done. While you're at it, turn off the snooker and go and sort out the shed. There's no time like the present.

Sunday Indo Living

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