Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
I have abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas, constipation, nausea and pencil thin stools. I am 44 years old, female, and I have no insurance. Is it cancer? Do you have any idea what I can do without insurance to help find out what it is?
Dr. Timothy Hoops, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Gastroenterology Division at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of Gastroenterology at Penn Medicine at Radnor, responds:
The symptoms you describe are nonspecific and could possibly be due to any number of things including parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer. This list is far from complete. The good news is that the longer you go without a diagnosis, the less likely they are due to cancer as this disease progresses unless treated. Without insurance, I would agree that it might be difficult to get the work-up you need. Maybe you can check with your local department of social services to see if they have an assistance or Medicaid program available for you. If you are near a University or a large hospital, there are often clinics that will accept patients without insurance. You may be able to work out some type of payment program with your physician to get some of this work done.
Your symptoms sound very bothersome and regardless of whether they are from cancer or not, they should be evaluated and treated.