Topic: Things to know about Dr. Google. Number 75 will shock you !!

Forum: Not Diagnosed But Worried — For those who are experiencing symptoms or received concerning test results, but haven't been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Posted on: Mar 26, 2019 08:22AM - edited Mar 29, 2019 12:23PM by djmammo

Posted on: Mar 26, 2019 08:22AM - edited Mar 29, 2019 12:23PM by djmammo

djmammo wrote:

There is no #75. There is nothing here to shock you. Don't you hate "click bait"?

HERE is a reasonable article from Reader's Digest on the subject of researching your symptoms on line.


I will add the following caveats that you may not see printed elsewhere as they are my personal opinions based on personal experience over the years:

A very large part of a medical education, besides learning all the rules of diagnosis, is learning all the exceptions to all the rules and their relative likelihood. Some things that appear to be benign on initial evaluation may be malignant, and the reverse is also true. An online article in a lay publication in order to be more interesting* may present a limited mix of those exceptions without a proper explanation of how often they occur in nature. Plus their goal is to pull in more readers and that can't happen if they dont include some sensational bits of information that could kill you. A medically related article in a lay publication would be boring if no one was born with a goat's head coming out of their ear.

Also, in order to avoid liability, an online publication will have to include the worst possible disease associated with any set of symptoms, no matter how rare, so that no one dies and has their family sue them for a substantial sum because the web site said "don't worry about it". Be prepared to be presented with worst case scenarios in bold type even if those scenarios are extremely rare or one of a kind. My chairman in residency, when someone would bring up such an unlikely diagnosis during a conference, would say (and I'm paraphrasing) "There has also been a case report of an immaculate conception but its not he first thing we think of".

I have been criticized for criticizing on line searching for medical advice in order to arrive at a diagnosis on one's own and that's fine with me. There are those that defend it vehemently citing the importance of being proactive and that one must be an active participant in one's healthcare, and I agree with all of them whole heartedly when it comes to disease management. However, prior to a tissue diagnosis, it seems I hear more people complain about the fear and panic generated by this practice than anything else. Also, not everybody's gut feeling is correct.

These searches are reasonable for the 'classics' like right upper quadrant pain after eating, leg pain after walking, shortness or breast going up stairs and other symptoms where the purpose of the article is to get you to see a doctor. It becomes more problematic when you have already seen a doctor and you are searching for specific x-ray findings to determine which particular type of a dozen different types of calcification is present in your breast.

The alternative to searching lay publications is searching the medical literature. Medical journals are "refereed" or" peer reviewed": "Peer review or refereed journal is an academic term for quality control. Each article published in a peer-reviewed journal was closely examined by a panel of reviewers who are experts on the article's topic." The information here is more likely true and correct. This does not happen at Vanity Fair.

But there is also a downside to reading these medical articles and that is, like mammogram reports, they are written for physicians and not for the general public. In order to understand them properly, one must be familiar with the vocabulary and underlying medical concepts of the subject at hand. Misunderstanding any word or statement can change the meaning of the article completely and either create havoc or a false sense of security neither of which is helpful.

IMO, the most consistent benefit of Googling is preparing a list of questions to ask your doctor(s).

*Recall the scene from 'The Big Chill' where Jeff Goldblum's character describes writing for People Magazine.

Board Certified Diagnostic Radiologist specializing in Breast Imaging. Contact me at
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Mar 27, 2019 11:08AM djmammo wrote:



Board Certified Diagnostic Radiologist specializing in Breast Imaging. Contact me at
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Mar 27, 2019 11:10AM - edited Mar 27, 2019 11:12AM by djmammo


"Google is like any tool - you have to know how to use it effectively and safely."

I believe that tool is the "double edged sword" that Salamandra referred to earlier.

"...separate fact from fiction and hope from hype"

Nice turn of phrase. Can I borrow that occasiionally?

Board Certified Diagnostic Radiologist specializing in Breast Imaging. Contact me at
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Mar 27, 2019 11:36AM kber wrote:

Djmammo - all yours!  :)

Dx 11/2018, IDC, Left, 5cm, Stage IIB, ER-/PR-, HER2- Chemotherapy 12/6/2018 Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxol (paclitaxel) Surgery 5/27/2019 Mastectomy; Mastectomy (Left); Prophylactic mastectomy; Prophylactic mastectomy (Right) Radiation Therapy 7/16/2019 Whole breast: Breast, Lymph nodes, Chest wall

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