We consult medical experts when we don't feel well because we assume they have all the answers.
And let's face it, going down the Google rabbit hole for self-diagnosis only exacerbates our anxiety.
But are doctors always right?
Sometimes, a person's gut instinct about an ailment can be accurate and being told otherwise can be fatal.
Wondering how often patients saved their own lives, Redditor OutsideXtraGuard asked:
"Doctors and nurses of Reddit: What self-diagnosis of a patient suprisingly turned out to be right?"
Medical experts – as well as former patients – shared their experiences involving a variety of cases.
Common anecdotes involved people who knew they had a progressive disease and wound up having various stages of cancer after previously being told they were fine.
So if you ever notice a strange lump behind your ear that appears to be the source of excruciating pain and are told it is nothing life-threatening, you may want to insist on a thorough examination.
What do you have to lose? Exactly.
The Suspicious Mole
"A man came in, saying he had an aggressive cancer on his back. He also told us that he'd run no tests, so we were skeptic, tbh. When we ran the test, though, we saw he was right. Seriously."
They Know When It's Time
"My mom is a nurse supervisor at a nursing home. Multiple times, patients have walked up to her and said goodbye, that they're going to die that night. Even though these residents have been perfectly mobile and "with it" they have always been right."
It Wasn't "Heartburn"
"My grandfather never went to doctors. He wanted to go out the way he came in--no drugs and surgery and machines. He got chest pain and decided to see a doctor, so right there, it's clear that it was unusual. The doctor dismissed it as heartburn (because hey, what else could it possibly be in an elderly man who's hardly ever seen a doctor and has chest pain? /s ). A couple of days later, he died of a massive stroke. My grandmother wanted to sue or something, but everyone was like eh, it's not going to bring him back, and he went out the way he wanted to, anyway."
"Seriously, a 70+-year-old man with chest pain? My father's had two weird "episodes" and got sent to the ER both times. Neither turned out to be "anything" on tests, but normally, people don't fuck around with that. "Chest pain" is a magic phrase, usually."
"My sister had a lump behind her ear that was causing her pain and was growing. My mom used to be a nurse and she thought it didn't look right, it wasn't just a cyst so she kept monitoring it and started to become worried that it might be cancerous. For a whole year my mom went back and forth with doctors asking them to take her seriously and one doctor finally agreed to go in and biopsy it. Lo and behold my sister had stage 1 cancer, and it was a rare form at that."
You're Never "Too Young" For It
"Not a doc or a nurse but back in the early 80s my mum (30 at the time) could not convince several docs that she had breast cancer. It was different to just a lump or pain. They all responded with 'you're too young.' Finally got one doc to write a referral to a specialist so she would shut up about it. She had breast cancer. Was told she may need a mastectomy but after going in they were able to remove enough without having to go that far."
"She went back to the original doc and had a go at him and said if she ever heard his name come up for malpractice in the future she would make a statement against him (she was in medical industry). Told him to NEVER tell a woman she was too young for breast cancer."
"Oh Look ... It WAS A Kidney Stone"
"Not a doc or nurse but a patient. I was having a kidney stone and my BF at the time took me to the ER. The nurse kept asking me what I did to myself (because I was practically screaming in pain). Through tears I managed to get out 'it's a kidney stone.' I then sat in the waiting room practically passing out until my BF somewhat yelled at the ER staff. They came over to get me and I couldn't even walk, the nurse said 'well are you coming back.' My BF said get her a f'king wheelchair."
"6 hours and a round of morphine later I passed the stone. The nurse said 'oh look at that it WAS a kidney stone.' Like seriously wtf."
A Collapsed Lung
"I had a spontaneous pneumothorax (collapsed lung) that came out of nowhere when I was 17. Had to go to the hospital and get a tube hooked up to my thoracic cavity to reinflate my lung."
"A week later I was in statistics class and I felt my other lung collapse. I immediately knew what it was. Kind of a weird but very distinct feeling of pain and shortness of breath. Cut to me in the school nurses office trying to explain that I had a spontaneous pneumothorax and I need to go to the hospital. Yeah...she didn't believe me at first."
Shingles Doesn't Discriminate
"Not the doctor but I went in because I had shingles. Told them upfront I thought it was shingles. The doctor kind of chuckles and she says, 'Well, you are far too young to have shingles. It's impossible.'"
"So I lifted my shirt and showed her my side where it was and I instantly saw her eyes widen as she goes, 'Oh my, that is definitely shingles...'"
"The doctor and nurses were a little sheepish and apologetic but they did a great job helping me get better. I was the youngest case they'd ever seen (early 20s at the time)."
The Voices In Her Head
"I read about a woman who had a voice in her head that kept telling her that she had a brain tumor. She eventually got tested and it turned out that she did have a tumor and it was causing the auditory hallucinations."
Don't Dismiss Everything You Hear
"I work as a caseworker for adults with severe and debilitating mental illness. A team member had a client keep complaining that she had 'worms in my brain.' All her doctors would dismiss her because of her mental illness. My team member finally got her doctor to refer her for an fMRI. Turned out she had terminal, inoperable brain tumors.... It's unclear whether or not her death could've been prevented if she had received treatment at the onset of whatever symptoms she was experiencing that she was unable to describe."
"Often people with mental illness, particularly schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder, will describe ailments in bizarre ways. It could be worms in their brain, possession, bugs in their stomach, etc. It's important to acknowledge that they may have a very real problem they are unable to verbalize, and we must not dismiss them."
Another Close Call
"My mom went to the doctors complaint about a pain in her lower back by her kidney. The doctor did a quick check up and told her it was nothing that she was probably just sleeping wrong."
"My mom mentioned cancer and the doctor said that it wasn't very likely because people with kidney cancer dont usually feel anything. She was adamant that something was wrong so she went to another doctor that told her the same thing but said he would run some tests to show her that it wasn't cancer."
"When the results came back from the test, it turned out she did in fact have cancer on one of her kidneys and because she caught at such an early stage, they were able to remove it before it spread."
Bleeding Brain Ignored
"Long time ago a patient of mine in the mental health unit had a delusion that he had a bleed in his brain. Kept on it for a month. One night he actually did have a massive spontaneous intracerebral bleed. Poor guy died after that."
"Patient in a care home was complaining of eye pain and facial tightness. She told me it was shingles."
"I reported it to the physician and supported that it did look like shingles. Doctor did not believe me or the patient. Poor lady suffered for several days until the night staff sent to the hospital. Guess what? Occular Shingles."
"Patient here; got into a car wreck and right arm started going numb a few weeks later. Self diagnosed as disc pressing on spinal cord, requested they do an MRI, doc said to take more painkillers and it would go away, I don't like drugs so I insisted. Footed bill for MRI that insurance wouldn't cover because I requested it against doctors wishes. Bulging disc on C5/6. 7 months of PT and other non painkiller drugs arm works again."
"F'k insurance, f'k doctors that push painkillers. Nearly done with the debt hole that entire debacle put me into."
Unexpected Brain Surgery
"'Not a doctor but' I started having severe excruciating headaches come on when standing, or coughing, laughing, etc. They became so severe they'd make me scream and vomit, but would disappear as long as I was bent over and hanging my head or if I took crazy amounts of caffeine. Because the headaches were positional I thought it was a CSF leak and that I needed a blood patch. One morning my husband drove me to the ER, which triggered a headache so I walked into the ER bent with my head hanging and saying I had a CSF leak and needed a blood patch. They did an MRI and it turned out leaks from Chiari, so I was right about the leaks but wrong about the treatment and I got brain surgery instead."
Mother Knows Best
"My dad is a neurosurgeon and my mom thought I was having absence seizures (I basically zone out and forget what happened from the past ten minutes or so) and my dad said I was just ignoring my mom, my mom took me to go get a EEG and turns out I have seizures pretty strong ones. EEGs can take up to two to three hours long and mine was fifteen minutes. We walked to my dads hospital and my mom walked in flaunting the papers saying 'I knew it!! I'm smarter than the neurosurgeon!!' Haha 😂"
"Edit: I just remembered something when I had my seizures(I was on meds and now I'm off, we are waiting to see if they'll come back), I had to have someone check on me every few minutes to make sure I hadn't drowned. I couldn't drive(still can't) or swim or hardly do anything by myself. Makes you appreciate alone time lol"