Half a century ago at a California Veterinary Medical Association conference, a psychiatrist lecturing on the reasons why
people study medicine mentioned that many physicians are careless about their own health. For example, they smoke, eat improperly,
and fail to exercise. I'm afraid this problem exists within our own profession, as well. We are medically knowledgeable so
we know the risks, but how many of us, in our personal lives, practice the preventive medicine that we preach?
Dr. Robert M. Miller
If you are past 40, have you had a routine colonoscopy? Men, when was the last time you had your prostate digitally palpated?
When was your last prostate-specific antigen screening? Women, do you have an annual mammogram and Pap smear? Reading the
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association obituary page, it is shocking to see how many young women, some in their 30s, are dying of cervical cancer or breast cancer.
None of us is immune. During my first belatedly scheduled colonoscopy, done when I was nearly 60, the doctor said that he
saw a suspicious growth and would need to perform a biopsy. I just knew it was a carcinoma, and it was. It was removed surgically,
along with 16 inches of my colon. Because the neoplasm was detected early, I never needed chemotherapy, radiation, or any
follow-up except for routine colonoscopies every few years, which we all should have regardless. My shortened colon has not caused me any problems; I suspected it was too long anyway.
My wife is a cancer survivor, as well. She has had both breast and uterine cancer. Again, thanks to early detection, she needed
no follow-up therapy after surgical removal of the tumors. Today, I'm 80 and Debby is 74, and we are both in good health and
still ski, ride horseback, train horses, and enjoy a busy, peripatetic lifestyle.
Colleagues, please do not allow your role as medical professionals to interfere with logical programs of diagnostic testing.
Sometimes fatal diseases such as prostate, breast, cervical, or ovarian cancer often are asymptomatic in the early stages.
Not detecting them early may result in complex and uncomfortable oncologic therapies or death. You are not immune! In fact,
many of us have had unusual exposure to radiation, hazardous chemicals, and so on that make us more susceptible to cancer.
It's discouraging to know that, almost daily, veterinarians examine dogs with collie nose or white cats with ulcerated ear
tips or palpate a mammary or an injection-site mass. They then must explain to the owners the possibility of cancer and its
consequences. Meanwhile, the doctor considers himself or herself to be too busy to undergo routine testing for common human
Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker, and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member from Thousand Oaks, Calif. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years
as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his Web site at