By Tammy Mazzella, PNA
During our recent Pituitary Education event at Emory University, Dr. Adriana Ioachimescu received a bright yellow card from Tracy, one of her patients. The front of the card had the number 17 and Dr. Ioachimescu's name on it. A really simple card, but the significance of the information was astronomical.
After talking to Dr. Ioachimescu and Tracy, it turns out Dr. Ioachimescu was the 17th doctor that Tracy had seen in her quest for a diagnosis. That doesn't include the countless other physicians she had seen that just treated her symptoms and were not looking for the root cause. Think about it, 16 doctors had been presented with symptoms of a pituitary disorder and not one of them came up with a correct diagnosis. 17, that is incredible to me, and completely unacceptable. How many patients have the energy or the resources to keep going to doctor after doctor? How many give up after 6 or 10 or 12 different doctors and begin to think that maybe the doctor is right, if you just take better care of yourself you will feel better?
I did an informal Facebook study and found that there are far too many patients who had to see several doctors before finally getting the diagnosis. So many were told that it was "all in their head", eat less, and exercise more. I cannot count how many times we have heard that from patients. The only thing the doctor had right, in most of these cases, is that it IS in their head. I also have heard so many stories about how the patient gave up looking for what was wrong because so many doctors dismissed them, it wasn't until their tumor started to cause mass effect that it was discovered, or it was discovered incidentally while looking for something else.
In a country that has some of the highest quality health care facilities in the world there is no excuse for 16 doctors being unable to correctly diagnose a person's ailment. This information has really stuck with me ever since. How can we reduce that number? No one should have to see more than 1 or 2 doctors to get a proper diagnosis. What can we do to reduce the number of doctors that patients have to see? How can the years of suffering and sometime irreversible damage be avoided? It is heart breaking to see this kind of unnecessary damage time and time again. The Pituitary Network Association would love nothing more than to see a drastic reduction in this number, but we are only one entity doing our best and need others to do their part. Our target is to help patients achieve accurate diagnosis with one, or maybe two doctors, not 17. We are willing to do whatever we can to do our part but ultimately it takes a village.
Pituitary Network Association is striving to educate and inform everyone who will listen. When a patient goes to see a doctor, the first person they interact with is a Nurse. So it makes sense to us to start with the nurses.
PNA is launching a Continuing Education Program to educate Nurses and others needing CEU credits about the signs and symptoms of pituitary disorders. Our comprehensive courses will cover the symptoms as well as testing and treatment information. For the first year, PNA will offer membership and course credits at no charge so we can educate as many as possible.
In addition, we have begun a dialogue with the AMA to change the medical school curriculum to include more education about the pituitary gland and the disorders associated with pituitary dysfunction.
We are doing what we can, but we are always asked by others what they can do to help. So I thought about creating a challenge. Today, I donated $17 to PNA and I challenge everyone reading this to donate $17 to the Pituitary Network Association. Tell your friends, family and neighbors. Share the information on social media, use the hashtag #17Challenge. If we all do this we can support educational programs and help the PNA work to reduce the amount of time and doctors it takes to get diagnosed properly.
Help us spread the word about the symptoms of pituitary disorders so that people know the questions to ask. Help us educate the doctors and nurses so they recognize the symptoms and test for hormonal abnormalities sooner rather than later. Your $17 donation will help provide course materials to help educate health care providers to recognize the symptoms and order the proper testing.