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Ask questions to avoid the wrong diagnosis

  • Published Friday, May 9, 2014, at 3 p.m.

In 1921, at age 39, Franklin Delano Roosevelt suddenly developed pain and paralysis in his upper and lower body. Although he regained control of his upper body, bowels, bladder and sexual functions, his legs remained paralyzed. Diagnosis? Polio.

But according to a review of his symptoms, he actually may have had Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a nerve disease that also causes paralysis and is more likely to have afflicted someone at his age and to cause symmetrical disability.

In FDR’s case, this missed and wrong diagnoses may not have changed the outcome; there were no effective treatments for either polio or GBS. But today, diagnostic errors have profound repercussions. Whether you’re seeing your doc for a sore throat or an oncologist following a cancer screening, a new report suggests that you could become one of the more than 12 million North American adults annually who are incorrectly diagnosed and don’t get the treatments they need.

So ... test your tester:

• Ask about the risks and benefits of any/all diagnostic tests.

• Call for test results; don’t wait to be called. Ask for clear explanations of the results from the doctor, not a technician.

• Make sure every doctor you see knows all your test results – from all your doctors.

• Get a second opinion if you receive a diagnosis that calls for surgery, ongoing medical treatment or even a prescription that runs for more than three days.

• If you think something’s been missed or you feel uncomfortable with your treatment (or lack thereof), pipe up.

Male postpartum depression is real

In the 1983 film “Mr. Mom,” Michael Keaton put a new face on the stay-at-home dad who wades into the responsibility – and let’s face it, the down-right visceral experience – of taking care of young kids. When the character Jack turns into a house-robe-wearing, unshaven mess who deals hands of coupon poker over morning coffee, you’re getting a front-row seat on “new-daddy depression.”

Now, a study reveals that Jack’s spiral down isn’t that unusual, and moms aren’t the only ones with post-partum depression. During the first five years of childhood, 25-year-old dads report a 68 percent increase in symptoms of depression, and more than 60 percent say juggling the demands of work and family, not spending enough time with their kids, and changes in sexual relations play a big hand in fatigue and stress. And while male post-partum depression might not be as hormone-related as mom’s, its repercussions are as serious. Bonding with your child during those first years is essential for the child’s development, but depressed dads are less likely to play with or read to their kids and more likely to inflict physical punishment.

The solution? We have to stop ignoring this phenomenon, and ante up: This means pediatricians need to pay attention to mothering and fathering, and offer dads support, which can range from therapy to medication. Moms have to realize there’s a real issue here, too. And dads? Take a look at the hand you’ve been dealt and play your cards smart. You and your whole family will end up winners.

Why you don’t do cardio rehab but should

If you always get your program from the same vendor at Yankee stadium for good luck or wear your Cleveland Browns’ football jersey inside-out so they’ll win two games in a row (hey, it could happen), no harm done. Those superstitions are fun, but you know they’re irrational and you wouldn’t put your heart on the line for them, right? Apparently, some of you would ...

A recent study reveals that many of you have wrong-headed beliefs about heart health (“My granddaddy smoked until he was 80, so I can smoke, too,” or “Aunt Zelda was really overweight and she made it to 90”), and they keep you from doing what you should to recover from your recent heart attack or other cardiovascular problems.

Cardio rehab – a prescribed program of physical therapy/activity, and nutritional and psychological counseling – improves lives. You’ll live longer, may avoid a second heart attack and reduce pain and dependence on medications. But less than a third (and sometimes only about 20 percent) of you start and stay with rehab.

Our advice: At your next doctor’s appointment ask for (another) referral to a cardiac rehab, and then go meet the folks who will be your rehab team. If you like and trust them, you’ll have an easier time sticking with it.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

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