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Have you seen Dr. Philip Cohen?
Posted on October 3rd, 2012
I was diagnosed with breast cancer and started seeing Dr. Cohen at GHMC, by default when one of the other oncologists Georgetown left. I did not choose him. A while back I had gone to a regularly scheduled appointment with my previous oncologist only to be told that she had left and that I had been re-assigned to Dr. Cohen. I have a very complicated medical history. About 10 years ago after a lengthy history of neurological symptoms and evaluation of them I was diagnosed as having a congenital brain malformation. I underwent 8 hours of brain surgery in an attempt to correct the problem. Though I had some benefit from the procedure there was considerable brain damage by the time of surgery that I did not have a complete recovery. I have a long well-documented history of not tolerating medications well, large do to neurological side effects. To treat my breast cancer, I underwent bilateral mastectomies and chemotherapy. I received the chemotherapy in NY as I live alone and I have relatives there so I knew I would have some help in the event that I experience debilitating side effects from the treatment. Though I was to undergo 8 course of chemotherapy, four with one set of drugs and the last four with another drug I was only able to complete six of the eight course. After the third course of the first two drugs, I became febrile and was advised to go to the ER. There, they noted that my white blood cells (the ones that fight infection) had been so depleted that I was at risk for acquiring a life threatening infection. Thus, I was hospitalized and treated with multiple antibiotics until my fever came down and my bone marrow recovered. My doctors decided not to give me any further course of these two medications. A month later I started on the 1st of four courses of the last drug. Again, I was only able to complete 3 courses as I developed such severe nerve damage my doctors were unwilling to give me more. I returned to DC and was advised to seek further treatment at GHMC. I had been started on a hormonal therapy in NY which I was to continue for five years under the supervision of an oncologist. I started to experience increasingly numerous side effects of increasing severity. I stopped the treatment after a year and 7 months and a few weeks before I had a regularly scheduled appointment with Dr. Cohen. I brought with me, again, a limited number of medical records so that he could verify for himself that not only was I not tolerating the medication I was on but that this was not infrequent for me. I only brought about 10-15 pages with me, all copies, all of which he should have read as I had also brought them with me during my first visit at GHMC but it was clear to me from previous visits with him that he was unaware of the information contained within them. I had hoped to have an intelligent discussion with him so that I might be able to weigh the risk vs. the benefits of stopping my medications and perhaps starting on a new class of drugs. Instead, after being brought into an exam room, a medical resident came in, and without introducing herself started peppering me with questions. I asked who she was and then proceeded to tell her what I need help with. After 6-7 minutes, she expressed impatience and left. Dr. Cohen came in with her 15 minutes later and told me that he had never heard of anyone experience these side effects with the medication I was on. I told them they were listed in the product label (I had looked it up as I began to feel better off of them and noted that all symptoms I was experiencing were observed in 5-15% of patients). He repeated that he had never experience them, but if I said so than it must be so (with considerable sarcasm). I asked what options I had and was told none. I asked what my risk of recurrence was if did not finish the 5 year course to which he responded "what difference does it make if you cannot tolerate the medication. I told him I felt dismissed and he responded he was simply taking my word that I had experienced severe side effects that he had never observed and he had nothing to offer but to follow me every six months. I asked him to review my records and he refused. I told him he should be familiar with them as I had brought them before and he said he had never read them. He told me to get my blood drawn and to make an appointment to return in six months. I left without signing out or getting my blood drawn and went to medical records to arrange to have a oopy of my records sent to me. i drove home in tears. Throughout my extensive medical history ( which includes, in addition to what I have mentioned, diagnoses of two other types of cancer that could be managed with surgery and follow up along) I have never felt so dismissed, so hurt, and as if i had been told that my life was of so little value that my physician was unwilling to spend more than five brief minutes insulting me rather than trying to arrive at a treatment plan that would offer me the best prognosis.I have chosen to write this in as much detail as possible so that, to the best of my ability, I am doing all that I can to prevent someone else from experiencing the hurt that I did.
Posted on June 6th, 2016
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