17/02/2015 8:14 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

Having A Family Doctor Could Save Your Life

ZEHDENICK, GERMANY - JULY 24: A doctor carries his bag with a stethoscope on July 24, 2013 in Zehdenick, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
Thomas Trutschel via Getty Images
ZEHDENICK, GERMANY - JULY 24: A doctor carries his bag with a stethoscope on July 24, 2013 in Zehdenick, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

People often complain that multi-speciality hospitals are too expensive to visit for minor health problems because they usually recommend unnecessary diagnostic tests that come with a high price tag. Is there a way out? Having a family doctor could be the answer to this problem.

A family doctor is a general physician who pays you a visit when you are sick or is the one your family consults whenever someone is ill in your family. When you visit a new doctor every time you fall sick, chances are that you might forget to tell him or her certain health issues, sometimes simply because of the anxiety that comes with revealing personal details in front of a stranger. The advantage of having a family doctor is that the doctor knows everything about the health history of your family, allergies you might have, the medicines that do not suit you, the diseases you might inherit from your parents and so on. So whenever you fall sick, your family doctor would initially prescribe medicines for a couple of days and wait to see whether you recover. If you don't recover after having medicines for three to five days, then your family doctor would suggest that you undergo through certain lab tests or would suggest that you seek consultation from a particular specialist.

I would like cite a case where the patient's family visited multiple doctors and had to undergo severe mental and financial trauma because the real problem was not diagnosed despite going through a number of tests. The patient was my friend's mother. Following a nose bleed, she went to a private hospital for a check-up. After undergoing some tests, she was prescribed some medicines. She was fine for a month but then the bleeding recurred. The doctor again prescribed some medicines which gave her temporary relief. This went on for around three months, after which the family decided to consult another doctor in a different private hospital. This second opinion was followed by a third opinion and then yet another.

This time the test results were shocking. She was diagnosed with lung cancer stage 3 and the doctor said she had just about six months or so to live. The beautiful and ever-smiling lady did not lose hope and her family stood behind her like a rock. She had reached a stage where the doctors could do little, she suffered a lot and her condition deteriorated quickly. After a month in the hospital her relatives did not allow any family friends to visit her as she did want others to see her in such a bad state. She was treated by some of the best doctors during her last stages, the family and friends prayed for her, but it was only a matter of time. She passed away just two-and-a-half months from the day she was diagnosed with cancer.

Here's the thing. The nose bleed was just one symptom and it was alarming enough for her to seek professional medical help. However, there were other symptoms in the months preceding the day she was diagnosed with cancer. She was an asthma patient, so when she had a cough that refused to subside she did not suspect anything. Nor did she pay heed to her constant headaches, attempting instead to relieve the pain with Zandu Balm.

These were all symptoms of lung cancer that were overlooked. Had she been going to a family doctor, it is likely that she would have discussed her day-to-day health issues. The doctor may have picked up on the symptoms as potentially serious and sent her for relevant tests. Maybe then she would have received timely treatment and would have been live today. She was just 50 years old when she died. She was planning to get her son married that year. It's just one of the many things that she will never get to do.