Charities that would help a woman get an operation she needs:
January 2, 2013 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Are there charities that would help a poor woman get an operation she needs?

I have a friend who lives in Canada. She is around my age (59 or thereabouts).. She has an ovarian cyst that needs surgery. The health care system is saying they won't operate because they think it's too dangerous to operate. She has not let me know how big the cyst is, but I am sure she is post-menopause. She has Tpe II diabetes. She has some major stresses in her life.
1. A grown special needs son,
2. Poverty.

She wants the operation because of her son. She is pretty sure the cyst needs to come out and that if she weren't poor it would.
Anyway, I am wondering if there are charities which would help her with the operation.

She would be willing to go outside Canada for treatment.
Thanks, you guys were helpful before!
posted by Katjusa Roquette to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have cause to believe that the doctor's assessment is incorrect? Because if they said that it's too dangerous to operate, it doesn't sound like a good idea to get it removed, especially since most ovarian cysts are benign. (Of course, I don't know all the details of the situation.)

Since Canada has public health care I'm not sure if there are much in the way of charities for medical help.
posted by vanitas at 7:05 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I apologize for this, but it sounds like your question should be rephrased as "how can I help a woman get an operation she thinks she needs". Her doctors don't think she needs it enough to have it done. This tells me two things:

1. The cyst does not present any life threatening issue for her. If it did, the surgery would be more important than the risk.
2. She has significant risk of complications with surgery. Definitely because of the diabetes, but there's probably a lot more to this story. Diabetes alone puts her at high risk for infections and wound healing issues.

Her first step should be to get a second opinion, find a doctor who thinks she does need the surgery enough to risk the potentially dangerous complications, not to try to find some surgeon in a third world country or other private surgeon who's willing to run risks for her because she'll pay with cash. She's got a special needs son to care for and she should be taking it seriously if someone's telling her this could be dangerous for her... I'm sorry I'm not answering your question but I really think these are important points for you to consider.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:06 PM on January 2, 2013 [19 favorites]

Response by poster: These are good points. She's been fairly emotional about it. She's not usually a big Drama Queen about her health. I will see if I can get more detail as to why she thinks she needs this done, and get pushy about at least getting a second opinion.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:14 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's Canada. She's not not getting the surgery because she's poor. She's not getting it because her doctor doesn't think she should have it. If she doesn't think her doctor is correct, she should get a second opinion.
posted by cgg at 7:42 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'd recommend her second opinion, if not a third or fourth one. If she's in Canada and eligible for medical treatment there I cannot see any reason why a doctor would put off having an operation that was needed, especially a life saving one, unless the risk of complications outweighed any benefits or it wasn't needed. Has she possibly heard the words ovarian cyst and assumed it's a tumor? Has she had any blood work done, are there tumor markers in her blood, if so they would most likely take a biopsy before even considering surgery. Even if there are markers there may be other treatments besides surgery if she can't have the surgery for some reason. If the cyst is benign they will simply keep an eye on it with ultrasounds.

All these things need to be discussed with her doctor, if her current doctor is letting her leave their office so upset and unclear on what is happening and why certain decisions have been made she really needs to hunt around and find a doctor better at explaining these things if nothing else because if it turns out she is unfortunate enough to have to make big decisions about surgery she really needs clear information.

IANAD. I picked all this up as a workmate went through a scare with a cyst a few years ago when I lived in Australia and would talk about it at work.
posted by wwax at 7:45 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Obviously ovarian cysts could require different treatments in different situations, and I don't know any more medical details than you do, but...
I have had ovarian cysts since I was in college, and when they flare up (every couple of years or so), I take strong anti-inflammatories for a few days and everything is 100% fine. Surgery has never even been suggested as an option, and given that there's a much safer treatment option available, I would think that surgery would be considered an unnecessary risk regardless of any other health factors. Now, her situation may be totally different, but based on what you've presented here, it sounds like your friend is way overreacting.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:59 PM on January 2, 2013

rainbowbrite, it's not outside of the realm of possibility - for typical ovarian cysts, you're right, surgery is not necessary, but there could be other reasons why surgery would be considered. Typically surgery would be considered for a particularly large ovarian cyst or one that was not clearly just a simple cyst (complex, etc). For example, I've seen an ovarian cyst surgically removed that was the size of a large watermelon (I had to use both arms to carry it, it weighed about 10 or 15 lbs).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:21 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I got an ovarian cyst I freaked out and did a lot of research on treatment options because my doctors told me the same thing her doctors did. The overwhelming message I got was unless it was deemed big enough to possibly twist and cause torsion on the ovary doctors preferred to leave it alone and hope it will take care of itself.

To a patient in tremendous pain who has just found out there is a giant growth on one's ovary this is a supremely unsatisfying answer. I certainly would have preferred they just pull it out. But many ovarian cysts simply go away on their own (in fact, they appear and disappear in many women without the women ever realizing the source of her pain) and the risks and side-effects of surgery are deemed to outweigh the benefits of removal.

What her doctor should've told her (what mine told me) was to monitor the pain, and if it continued past 3-4 weeks come back in to see if the cyst has gotten bigger. If I got a horrible, excruciating burst of pain, that was the cyst bursting or twisting my ovary and I needed to go to the ER immediately to get surgery. In the end I waited it out and it eventually disappeared.

Of course, she should also make sure they were reasonably sure it wasn't a tumor or anything. I don't know anything about medical imaging so I have no idea if cysts and tumors look different enough for the doctors to know.
posted by Anonymous at 8:48 PM on January 2, 2013

I understand the comments from the other posters about how it's just an ovarian cyst and if the doctors (you said health care system, and that leads me to believe there are bean counters involved, not necessarily doctors' opinions alone?) said leave it, it should be left. However, my sister was told her ovarian cyst was no big deal and six months after the surgery they finally got around to giving her when it wouldn't go away, she was dead from cancer. Same thing with my mom.

So I understand your friend's freakout, and I think the first most important thing is to get a second, and possibly third opinion. There could be some medical professionals who aren't as daunted by the other risk factors as the first one. Or at least someone who can communicate better than it sounds like they may be communicating with her. Health care professionals are absolute shit bastards when it comes to women's cancers, and they poo-poo a lot of things the woman is feeling or experiencing and chalk it up to hysteria. My mom looked like she was 15 months pregnant, was so sick and had never been sick in her life, never complained, and they told her repeatedly that she was just aging and her liver might be pressing on her ovary. WTF.

I wish I knew more about the Canadian system, and if there are charities that can help. I wish you and your friend the best. I hate thinking about anyone having to deal with what happened to my family, and it's a scary thing to hear and to have to go through.
posted by emcat8 at 9:27 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The best thing to do is to get a second opinion.

Any idea where she lives in Canada? Province + town/city?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:28 PM on January 2, 2013

Best answer: What province is she in? if she's worried about it being cancerous she might try her provincial cancer agency as a first stop and at least get the ball rolling on further testing.

The Canadian health care system can be slow - very slow at times and I say this as someone there who just paid to have minor surgery done rather than wait the year or two I would have had to wait otherwise - but they don't really stop surgery because you have no money. You just have to wait. Sometimes a very long time, but they will bump you up if you're in real danger. But it helps also to keep trying for further opinions and options, if you feel you're getting the brush off.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:31 PM on January 2, 2013

If she's in Canada and eligible for medical treatment there I cannot see any reason why a doctor would put off having an operation that was needed, especially a life saving one, unless the risk of complications outweighed any benefits or it wasn't needed.

Because you have to FIGHT for everything in these national health care systems. I live in Sweden and the standard phrase you get from the system is "Let's wait and see if it gets worse".

("I think I am having chest pains" gets you a VIP pass though.)

I get that the system is overloaded and the best way to manage the workload and costs is to avoid doing any work, so as a patient you cannot take "NO" for an answer, you have to be a demanding asshole squeaky wheel to get the system working. This is the only thing that works.
posted by three blind mice at 1:52 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I have conveyed some of what you all shared with me. She lives in Toronto. She's compared a couple hospitals there unfavorably with her experiences in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. I did advise her to get some more opinions. I totally understand why she is upset. I got told by a doctor that I have numerous cysts. I had three on my ovaries. They went away on their own. I had fibroids, which also went away on their own.
She scared the crap out of me. Next visit, I asked her whether any of them were dangerous. She said basically 'not unless they burst' none of them are big. They probably cause some odd pains I get from time to time.
Learning about the cysts was scary. Apparently you can tell from imaging if they might be dangerous or not.
The Internet is also full of quacks who claim they can cure these things naturally. Of course that is govno. I told her that.
I am going to keep checking in with her and with you all. Thanks so much everyone.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:56 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Type II diabetes can raise the already risky risks inherent in any surgery. Before my dad had his bypass (this is years ago, but still), his doctors talked with him at length about the specific kinds of complications the diabetes can add to the surgery itself and through recovery.
posted by rtha at 2:09 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think there may be a resolution to her problem. She did indeks go for another opinion! This doctor she said is 'Just like House, only Carribean!'
Now I know one of the issues, she has some sort of thyroid trouble which also needs control. Dr. House's Caribean colleague has mapped out an aggressive treatment plan for her thyroid, so that if all goes well, she could have her operation in a few months.

I don't know how this is going to go frankly, but I will keep everyone posted thanks!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:44 PM on January 3, 2013

Response by poster: She has weight issues, and a thyroid problem. The current doctor has put her on a diet. She's doing what he said to do. Not sure how much weight has to come off. I am glad she found a better doctor!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:54 PM on January 9, 2013

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