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Doctors are taught when assessing a patient's medical condition to create what is known as a "differential diagnosis:" that is, essentially a listing of the possibilities causing the patient's problems. The physician then determines the most probable causes taking efforts to rule out the most ominous conditions, including cancer, before resolving that the condition is a less serious concern. This may require that diagnostic testing be undertaken as part of the process. This is not only good medicine but a reasonable approach incorporating good common sense. Fellow Injuryboard Blogger Bob Carroll has blogged on the subject and I could not agree with him more:

When one of the possible diagnoses is cancer it seems to me that the medical standard of care should include the most definite tests available. The patient should have the right to refuse the tests, but the doctor should fully inform the patient of their availability, risks and costs.

A total of 1,399,790 new cancer cases and 564,830 deaths from cancer are expected in the United States in 2006. When deaths are aggregated by age, cancer has surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death for those younger than age 85 since 1999. Delay-adjusted cancer incidence rates stabilized in men from 1995 through 2002, but continued to increase by 0.3% per year from 1987 through 2002 in women.

When dealing with life and death, a patient needs to be their own best advocate. Let your doctors know that you expect to be provided with full disclosure of all options available to you so that you can remain educated, informed and make decisions which are rationally based when it comes to your care and treatment.

For more information about medical malpractive, click here.

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