By Keith Roach, M.D.
DEAR DR. ROACH: My 81-year-old mother-in-law had a biopsy done on a lump in her breast on a Friday. The following Tuesday, the doctor’s office called to tell her it is cancer, but she cannot get an appointment with the doctor until three weeks later. No other information was provided. When she called the office to get some more information, a nurse just said, ‘‘The doctor will talk with you at your scheduled appointment.’’ In the meantime, my mother-in-law and our entire family are just a bit stressed trying to deal with the cancer diagnosis. I’m guessing/hoping that it must not be too serious or the doctor would not be making her wait so long. I’m just wondering if this is normal to give a patient this kind of news and then make her wait so long to get more information. Sounds kind of cruel to me. I would appreciate your thoughts. — G.G.
Dear G.G.: I am horrified at this treatment. The diagnosis of cancer is always a difficult one to hear; it is life-changing, and there are many questions that need to be answered. Regardless of how ‘‘serious’’ the doctor thinks it might be, waiting three weeks to get any information is just wrong. I know firsthand just how busy doctors can get, but you have to make time to have this conversation with the patient and family.
DEAR DR. ROACH: My husband had shingles about five years ago; when we went in for our flu shot, we were both encouraged to also get the shingles vaccine. Doesn’t he have immunity from actually having had it? We are both 60 years old. — J.R.
Dear J.R.: Even if you have a history of shingles, you should still get the shingles vaccine, since it is still possible to get shingles again after having it once.
Write to Dr. Roach at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.