There are now more than 300 disease awareness months in the year. November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And September is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Awareness Month. While I laud the efforts of the vascular disease community to prevent PAD, I can’t help but feel cynical when April rolls around. April is Limb Loss Awareness Month. But awareness is not enough, there are still questions you need to ask. In this post, we’ll highlight the 3 questions you need to ask your vascular surgeon.
According to the Amputee Coalition, 185,00 people in the United States have an amputation each year; that’s a little more than 500 people per day. While trauma and cancer account for nearly 50% of all cases, the remaining 50% of amputations are due to vascular disease, or PAD, associated with diabetes. Somewhere between September and April, Americans with diabetes and vascular disease are not getting the message – eat healthy food, lose weight, exercise, do not smoke and care for your feet, and are being referred to vascular surgeons, like me, and too often facing tragic outcomes.
So, I’d like to propose a new awareness month – Prevent Amputation Awareness Month. It doesn’t need a campaign website, lapel ribbon, fundraising walk or even a celebrity spokesperson. Its mission will to be to help patients more fully understand their diagnosis, disease, and treatment options at their first appointment with their surgeon, giving them the best chance to receive the optimal care they deserve – and only involves three questions.
1. Am I candidate for bypass grafting, angioplasty and stent placement, or atherectomy?
2. How long have you performed each of these surgical procedures?
3. How is your approach the same or different than other surgeons?
No matter the month, every patient deserves access to the best diagnosis and treatment for their disease. And should have the upmost confidence in their surgeon.