DEAR DR. ROACH: My father died two years ago at age 73. For about six months, he had been experiencing excruciating back pain, which surgery didn’t help. A few years earlier, he had been treated for bladder cancer. He was due to have a follow-up appointment with his cancer specialist but didn’t because he was overwhelmed with the back pain and didn’t want to think about cancer, too. Well, eventually he ended up in the hospital, and it was found that cancer had spread throughout his body. He died a month later.
My question is whether his back pain was a symptom of the cancer. Should back specialists be alert to the possibility of cancer if their standard treatments don’t work? Should people with severe back pain be proactive and ask for further tests?