Thursday, November 10, 2011

Think Zebra.

In an effort to raise awareness about Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs), November 10th is NET Cancer Day around the world.  

The zebra represents NET patients because of a saying in the medical community: "When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras."  This refers to the idea that the most obvious answer (or diagnosis) is probably the right one.  For people dealing with neuroendocrine tumors, that's not always the case.  Depending on where the tumor is located, patients can present a myriad of symptoms similar to other ailments, only to deal with years of misdiagnosis.  When NETs are finally diagnosed, the tumors have metastasized or become inoperable.  Neuroendocrine tumors are the zebras.

I'll admit that it's often difficult for me to relate to other NET patients and their stories of misdiagnosis and painful years of confusing symptoms because I had none.  I still don't.   I was fortunate enough to have been diagnosed fairly quickly, but also very incidentally.  My doctor's decision to order an x-ray to rule out bronchitis changed my life completely.  Yet, I know how for other reasons (my age and the lack of symptoms), I could have easily been told the obvious - that nothing was wrong.

Like most cancers, early detection and surgical removal of the small localized tumors, is the best bet for curing NET patients.  I face a bit of both scenarios:  while my tumor was fairly massive, it had spread to only the local lymph nodes, so removal of my lung and most of the affected lymph nodes was still possible.
So, instead of urging doctors (and patients) to only consider the obvious, it's best to remember, "If you don't suspect it, you can't detect it."  Think zebra.

For more info:
Net Cancer Day Website
Caring For Carcinoid Foundation

About my NET:
My Diagnosis Story
Lung Carcinoid

Caring for Carcinoid Donation Page

Image Source: via Kristen on Pinterest

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