How to Heal a Hypochondriac

Despite what most physicians think, these patients really are sick--and they can often be cured

It happens to every medical student sooner or later. You get a cough that persists for a while or feel a funny pain in the stomach or notice a tiny lump under the skin. Ordinarily, you would just ignore it--but now, armed with your rapidly growing store of medical knowledge, you can't help worrying. The cough could mean just a cold, but it could also be a sign of lung cancer. A twinge might be internal bleeding. The lump is probably a lymph node--but is it bigger than it should be? Could it be Hodgkin's disease?

For doctors in training, nurses...

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