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The Doctor's Surgery

Regulars | By Tom Stuttaford | October 2017


No firm date with the Grim Reaper

‘How long do you think my mother will last, doctor?’ is the question we all dread. Estimating a patient’s likely lifespan is difficult, if not impossible. An experienced doctor who knows the patient and his or her health problems well can hazard a reasonably accurate guess, but time will often prove them wrong. Factors other than the nature of the patient’s disease will influence the prognosis. The patient’s character, as well as their physique in some cases, will influence their survival time. When I first joined my family practice in Norfolk, I was called to see a usually jolly, active and extrovert woman in her sixties. She had been feeling unusually tired recently and her bowels were not as regular as she would have liked. I arranged for the routine X-rays and a colonoscopy, and was not entirely surprised to hear that she had a small bowel cancer. Surgery revealed...

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