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Voice: Get those routine exams done routinely

March 17, 2001

As I recover from a medical ordeal, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Dr. Donald Ehman, his colleagues and staff. Thanks also go to the staff at Pioneers Memorial Hospital, especially the nurses in the women's center and the physicians and technicians in the PMH lab and X-ray departments for their quality care and compassion. Imperial Valley residents don't always appreciate the caliber of medical care that is available locally.

Not long ago, I visited Dr. Ehman for my annual gynecologic exam, during which he noticed an enlarged mass in my abdomen. I felt fine and had no symptoms of any abnormality, but Dr. Ehman insisted on identifying the mass. There were several possible explanations for the enlargment, most of which are common and can be ignored, treated or removed fairly easily. Because sonograms did not provide an answer to what my condition was, Dr. Ehman performed outpatient surgery involving laproscopy, allowing him to see the enlarged structure and remove it.

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He took out an ovary. During my follow-up visit, I found out the results of the pathology that was done on the removed ovary: cancer.

That was a word I was unprepared to hear, especially since I felt fine and had no symptoms of any problem! My high school anatomy and physiology students had just finished cancer research projects and I was familiar with cancer statistics: ovarian cancer provides no symptoms in its early stages, so most women are not diagnosed with it until the disease is widespread, consequently fewer than half of its victims survive.

However, I am one of the lucky few who have the disease found at an early stage. Following several additional procedures and surgery to be sure there were no more cancer cells, I am now recovering and getting on with my life. My cancer was discovered early because I am faithful about getting routine exams and because I have a competent and alert physician.

A number of routine medical exams are recommended for men, women, children and adolescents. Some of these exams you must do for yourself, while others require a doctor's visit or lab tests, but all are intended to prevent or diagnose diseases and health problems early, thus helping you reduce your medical, emotional and financial difficulties.

The moral of the story is this: take care of yourself and your family, get those routine exams done routinely! They could save your life. One of them saved mine.

NANCY KELLOGG

Brawley

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