I overheard this recent conversation between a CT technologist and a 53-year old woman (who I'll call Joan) who just had a scan at a heart scan center:
CT Tech: It appears to me that you have a moderate quantity of coronary plaque. But you should know that this is a lot of plaque for a woman in your age group. A cardiologist will review your scan after it's been put through a software program that allows us to score your images.
Joan: (Sighing) I guess now I know. I've always suspected that I would have some plaque because of my mother. I just don't want to go through what she had to.
CT Tech: Then it's really important that you discuss these results with your doctor. If you wrote your doctor's name on the information sheet, we'll send him the results.
Joan: Oh, no! Don't send my doctor the results! I already asked him if I should get a scan and he said there was no reason to. He said he already knew that my cholesterol was kind of high and that was everything he needed to know. He actually got kind of irritated when I asked. So I think it's best that he doesn't get involved.
This is a conversation that I've overheard many times. (I'm not intentionally an eavesdropper; the physician reading station at the scan center where I interpret scans--Milwaukee Heart Scan--is situated so that I easily overhear conversations between the technologists and patients as they review images immediately after undergoing a scan.)
If Joan feels uncomfortable discussing her heart scan results with her doctor, where can she turn? Get another opinion? Rely on family and friends? Keep it a secret? Read up about heart disease on the internet? Ignore her heart scan?
I've seen people do all of these things. Ideally, people like Joan would simply tell their doctor about their scan and review the results. He/she would then 1) Discuss the implications of the scan, 2) Identify all concealed causes of plaque, and then 3) Help construct an effective program to gain control of plaque to halt or reverse its growth. Well, in my experience, fat chance. 98% of the time it won't happen.
I think it will happen in 10-20 years as public dissatisfaction with the limited answers provided through conventional routes grows and compels physicians to sit up and take notice that people are dying around them every day because of ignorance, misinformation, and greed.
But in 2006, if you're in a situation like Joan--your doctor is giving you lame answers to your questions or dismissing your concerns as neurotic--then PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take advantage of the universe of tools in the Track Your Plaque program.
People tell me sometimes that our program is not that easy--it requires reading, thinking, follow-through, and often asking (persuading?) your doctor that some extra steps (like blood work) need to be performed. The alternative? Take Lipitor and keep your mouth shut? Just accept your fate, grin and bear it, hoping luck will hold out? To me, there's no rational choice here.