The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Dr. WebMD Makes a House Call

2 min read

“I got the results of the test back: I definitely have breast cancer.”

But, then again, I might have malaria, ebola or tuberculosis, too.

No doctor has ever said anything indicating that I have any of these diseases, but WebMD is always right. Gone are the days when we had to wonder what ailments pestered our sinuses as the air grew cold. Lost are the moments of terror as doctors came back into the room with the blood test results.

And it’s completely accurate.

Now, we can all diagnose ourselves, for free and on the Internet. We’re young and we don’t need health insurance, even though it’s guaranteed until we’re 26 now.

I got breast cancer from drinking more than three to six drinks per week, according a recent study cited in the Washington Post. I got malaria from the mosquito living rent-free in our kitchen. I got ebola when I was 14, living down the street from the medical center harvesting the disease in Maryland. And I got tuberculosis when I went to the Moulin Rouge.

All of it makes sense, right?

When my parents were in college, my dad went out and bought a copy of Gray’s Anatomy when my mom was sick. He wanted to be able to understand exactly what was going on.

Now, I don’t want to be the one to age my parents, but this was before the Internet existed. Or at least it was pretty close to that time. So, I like to think of Gray’s Anatomy as the original WebMD of medicine. Even as a child, whenever I felt sick, I would reach for my mom’s Mayo Clinic Handbook. Self-diagnosis is an art that cannot be learned. You have to be born with it. Or buy a book.

Except, books are more for knowledge. WebMD and Yahoo Answers are for diagnosis.

Curiosity is inherent to life. Whenever anything goes wrong, it’s good to freak out and have a panic attack, instead of going to the doctor. Knowing there’s something terribly wrong with you is a lot better than ignoring your problems for years.

Right now on the WebMD homepage, there is a headline that says, “Trouble Focusing?” followed by, “It could be ADHD.” There’s even a quiz to evaluate how ADHD you are.

My results said that, “the patient is severely affected by ADHD and, if treated, is not having a good response to treatment.” I didn’t think I had ADHD, until I saw that link and took that quiz.

Guess I should tell all my professors that that’s why I have the attention span of a gnat and spend most class periods looking through different typefaces.

So, as flu season hits home this fall, remember one thing. When WebMD tells you that your cough is a sign of severe pneumonia, believe them. They’re always right.

Hell, I probably have prostate cancer, too.