People use the popular Google search engine to search for everything from the day’s lottery numbers to what movies are showing nearby. Some people even use Google to search for what their medical symptoms might signal. A man in England recently used Google to search for what his symptoms might indicate after more than five doctors turned up nothing. Instead, the popular search engine revealed a cancer diagnosis.
60-year-old Kevin Everett had begun experiencing breathing difficulty, wheezing, and sinus problems. In search of help, he went to his doctor. Over the next year, Everett saw at least five different doctors for his complaints. He was diagnosed by one doctor with asthma, and he was given inhalers, which did not help.
Another doctor diagnosed him with bronchitis until a chest X-ray eliminated that possibility. Another doctor diagnosed him with sleep apnea and gave him a special breathing machine to keep his airways open.
Despite multiple doctor visits, and treatment which included antibiotics and steroids, Everett’s symptoms continued to get worse. He lost the hearing in his ear, which impacted his musical performances. Increasingly frustrated with the lack of answers he got from his physicians, he turned to Google. He typed in his complaints and found that his symptoms matched up with nasopharyngeal cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, symptoms of nasopharyngeal cancer can include ringing in the ears, headaches, trouble opening the mouth, ear infections, and nasal blockage or stuffiness.
Everett went to his doctor to ask for an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) referral. “They put a camera up each of my nostrils for about 30 seconds, took it out and said immediately there was tissue growing in my post-nasal cavity,” said Everett.
A biopsy of the tissue confirmed a malignant tumor. He immediately began chemotherapy treatment, which required multiple hospital stays. He will then have to go through radiotherapy for 6 weeks, to fight the cancer. Everett has since made a complaint to the country’s Care Quality Commission, for the way his case was handled.
“I have no faith in [general practitioners] any more,” said Everett. “I just wonder if they’d picked it up earlier, would I be going through all this now? I was told that had it taken any longer to diagnose, it could have spread further and would have been incurable.”
“I know diagnosing yourself is not the best thing to do and it must drive the doctors batty,” said Everett, “but if it took me 15 minutes to look at NHS Choices, why couldn’t they, as trained GPs, find out what was wrong with me?”
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