People who have had difficulty getting an accurate diagnosis of their ailments may feel that their doctors are not taking them seriously. Perhaps if they had MD degrees themselves, they imagine, the diagnostic process would be more productive.
A Medical Mystery
This is not always the case, however. Our guest, Neil Spector, MD, is a distinguished researcher and medical oncologist. But when he came down with troubling symptoms, the doctors he consulted told him he was suffering from stress. No one could figure out why his heart was racing and he had so little energy, but the diagnosis of “stress” followed him around. He had to become his own advocate.
Gone in a Heartbeat
Years later, his doctors discovered that his heart was barely functioning. It had been destroyed by Lyme disease that had been completely overlooked. He learned that unless he got an immediate heart transplant, he could be gone in a heartbeat.
What can we learn from Dr. Neil Spector’s successful struggle to overcome his Lyme disease misdiagnosis?
Detecting Lyme Disease Earlier:
Since listening to Dr. Spector’s description of the difficulty he had with the blood tests to detect the infection, there has been some progress on blood tests that can be used for early detection of Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease) infection. A team from George Mason University has just announced its results.
A multi-university team has also developed a multi-antigen test that should be helpful for early diagnosis (Journal of Clinical Microbiology, Dec., 2015). But for any of these tests to be useful, a doctor needs to suspect Lyme disease and order the test.
This Week’s Guest:
Neil Spector, MD, is the Sandra P. Coates chair in breast cancer research and an associate professor of medicine as well as pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University Medical Center. He co-directs the experimental therapeutics program for the Duke Cancer Institute, and is a Komen scholar. His book is Gone in a Heartbeat: A Physician’s Search for True Healing.
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