If You Had Cancer, Would You Put Off Treatment Until It’s Convenient For You?

Once or twice a month, I have patients that are diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea (50 to 90 apneas per hour) and when told that it’s important to treat it, they are reluctant, saying that they’ll take care of it once school ends, or when they get vacation time. I even go as far as to tell them that insurance actuaries rank sleep apnea at the same level as cancer. In fact, a recent study showed that for untreated obstructive sleep apnea, your relative risk of dying from cancer is much higher than that for heart attack or stroke. Another study showed that your life expectancy is about 20 years shorter, and still another study showed that your risk of getting into a car accident is 15 time higher than normal.

There’s a lot of psychology involved when you’re dealing with obstructive sleep apnea. What are your stories that involve friends or family members? Is there a lot of denial or refusal to act when told they have severe obstructive sleep apnea?

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3 thoughts on “If You Had Cancer, Would You Put Off Treatment Until It’s Convenient For You?

  1. Lots of denial and refusal of treatment among family and friends who have OSA. Some keep praying and asking for prayers for all their other co-morbid medical conditions, when their prayer of release was unveiled and initially answered. In their minds, God/Angels and CPAP are diametrically opposed.
    Cancer does not physically harm other people. Sleep Apnea/Sleep Disorder has been a circumstantial cause or enhancement of the severest of accidents. Automobiles, Trucks, Planes, Trains, Buses, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Union Carbide-Bhopal, Exxon-Valdez, etc. Dr. Park, you have had a comment you have uttered several times on different forums and twice last night that I take issue. If everyone was treated for OSA and sleep disorders, it would bankrupt the system(s). However, the human toll is staggering, the loss of work production is staggering, the social cost is staggering, the co-morbid health costs are staggering. If anything evaluation and treatment should be almost Ben Franklinish of “every home and building, a lightning rod.”
    My wife’s brother is dead of heart failure at 43 dx and self-untreated OSA, his Grandfather snored and passed away from dementia, his Father snored and died young of Melanoma. My brother-in-law (self-medicated), conjectured trade, to achieve sustainable daily energy and overcome chronic tiredness. (I’ve had the 7% Solution when I had deviated septum surgery, it does make for a very WAKEFUL EXPERIENCE, especially for someone who never had.) Opinion, the hand-in-hand associative with the Sleep Disorder territory with cognitive disorder and executive function disorder, self-medication may be more prevalent and persistant in the group.
    Finally, the Philadelphia priest who has been sentenced for the charges of Sandusky, is frankly, a heavy-set man with recessed chin and large neck. Question: if his mental capacity and executive function compromised and led him into a very poor decision and incapable. Pointedly, a life not worth lived without proper and timely treatment and care.

  2. I have observed ignorance and/or denial in family, friends, and health care practitioners. Most people don’t get the seriousness of sleep apnea. It’s especially frustrating when family members and friends don’t get it.

    My 86-year-old father, who has had diabetes for years, was diagnosed with sleep apnea about two years ago. He refuses treatment. He says he sleeps “just fine.” No amount of explanation can convince him to accept treatment. I’ve quit trying. I suspect my 83-year-old mother, who has advanced stage Alzheimer’s and weighs less than 80 pounds due to bronchiectasis, has had UARS or OSA for a long time. I have cousins who complain of insomnia and fatigue. When I talk about my own sleep apnea, insomnia, and fatigue, they fail to make the connection. They don’t get it. What’s more: all of these family members fail to understand why I am unemployed. I don’t work because I can’t. They can’t grasp the degree of impairment that results from years of sleep disordered breathing.

    Some doctors don’t even get it. I was diagnosed with complex sleep apnea three years ago after going from doctor to doctor for nine years, seeking diagnosis and treatment for extreme fatigue, insomnia, depression, irritability, aching, lack of stamina, etc. I have used CPAP, ASV, and an oral appliance–all unsuccessfully. I am still symptomatic, yet I cannot find a doctor who seems to think this is serious enough to take the bull by the horns and do whatever is necessary to find a solution. I abandoned my pulmonologist because he couldn’t seem to come up with anything that worked. I’ve come to the point that I’m open to a tracheostomy, but nobody wants to even talk about that.

    If a doctor discovered I had cancer, he or she would probably take drastic action and make sure I received immediate attention. The medical establishment would rush in with its most formidable treatment. Or if I announced I had cancer to my family and friends, they would probably come to my side with their understanding and support. But when I talk about my sleep apnea, I confront ignorance and indifference.

    As far as I’m concerned, sleep apnea is the elephant in the middle of the living room. But most people can’t see it.

  3. It took quite some time to convince my spouse that the level of snoring was abnormal to the point that a sleep study was necessary. After 20 years of marriage it only got louder, more frequent and would start up as soon as the head hit the pillow. A sleep study cited severe sleep apnea with AHI of 53. My advice was get the CPAP device because I had a gut feeling that this could have a potential link to heart disease and dementia (my spouse’s father and paternal grandfather were said to have had Alzheimer’s and my father-in-law’s cause of death was congestive heart failure while in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s–both men were also heavy snorers). My take on it all is get treatment immediately and wear the CPAP mask if necessary at night so you can live a healthier life. Joking about looking like a cyborg makes it easier to cope with wearing the CPAP.