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Friday, November 2, 2007

My annual physical was a lifesaver

David Evett's letter to the editor:

Stephen Smith's article: "The annual physical gets a checkup" (Health/Science, Oct. 22) questions the value of the yearly visit to the doctor. I am an active, energetic 71-year-old. Between Christmas and New Year’s 2005-2006, I had a mild case of pneumonia, which yielded promptly to antibiotics. When I went in for my annual checkup the following April, I seemed to be in excellent general health. My conscientious doctor, however, ordered a chest X-ray to see whether the pulmonary infection had done any permanent damage. This was not an official follow-up: had I not come in for the exam, he would not have ordered the X-ray. It revealed no ill effects from the pneumonia. The alert radiologist, however, noticed a suspicious shadow in the other lung. It was cancer. Early detection meant early surgery and the strong likelihood that it would not recur. I need hardly say that I am glad – as are my family, friends, and professional associates – that I schedule that exam every spring.

Advice to elderly pneumonia survivors: Pneumonia can be dangerous for older people, so make sure the doctor follows up to ensure the infection has completely cleared up.

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