Is my Japanese doctor ripping me, and my insurance off?
This is a question I started asking myself after a few months with this doctor. It started when the results of my yearly medical exams arrived, and they found an excessive level of CA19-9, a tumor marker. Imagine the shock not only from myself, but maybe more from my wife, and my family.
All other items were fine and did not require retests, but because of this particular tumor marker, the recommendation from the clinic was to have further examinations with their resident gastroenterologist.
2017 January 19
I visited the gastroenterologist, and she recommended I retake the blood test so we can verify the numbers from the medical exams. Results will be available after a week. Consultation fee + blood test: ¥2830.
2017 January 26
I visited the gastroenterologist again for the results of the blood test. Values for the CA19-9 were down to normal levels showing there must have been a lab error with the original test. That should have been the end of it. Or so I thought.
The doctor then turned her attention to my LDL levels. She gave me prescription medicine to lower the numbers, and asked me to come back after a month to see if things have gotten better. Consultation fee: ~ ¥1000. Medicine: ¥2500.
2017 March 7
I visited the gastroenterologist again to take another blood test. This is to see if my LDL levels have improved. She asked me to visit after a few days for the results. Consultation fee + blood test: ¥2390.
2017 March 9
I visited the gastroenterologist again for the results. LDL levels are better, but still slightly above the recommended values. She renewed my prescription and asked me to come back a month later for another blood test, so we can check the progress. Consultation fee: ¥1450. Medicine: ~ ¥2500.
2017 April 13
I visited the gastroenterologist again for another blood test. While we’re at it, she recommended I also take a blood test for CEA because the results from the December medical exams were high. The original results did not require another test but she commented it might be worth testing it again just to be sure. Consultation fee + blood test: ¥3540.
2017 May 16
I visited the gastroenterologist again for the results of the blood test. LDL levels are better. Great! Not really. CEA levels are high, so she recommended I take another blood test to verify. This is getting tiring. Consultation fee + blood test: ¥3540. Medicine: ¥2500.
2017 May 30
I visited the gastroenterologist again for the results of the blood test. LDL levels have improved. Again. CEA levels are down, but still high, so she recommended I take a gastrointestinal endoscopy test to verify. She confirms there were no issues with a recent barium test I took, but she still recommended I take the test just to be sure. Consultation fee: ¥1250.
She scheduled me to visit again after a couple of weeks, so we can review the results of the endoscopy test.
7 visits. 4 blood tests. 5 months of taking the LDL lowering medicine. If not because of my medical insurance which covers 70% of the cost, I would have already paid ~ ¥70,000 (~ $700) in just 5 months.
While I do get it that the doctor just wants to make sure all my numbers are within the Japanese acceptable levels, I think I came to the point where I would just like to say “enough”. The CA19-9 lab error, which started all this, has already caused enough emotional stress for myself and my family, I believe we can now move on with our lives. Thanks to Google, I also did my own research about all these to keep me better informed: CA19-9, LDL, CEA.
I now have a choice.
I can either  choose continue with this seemingly never-ending cycle of visits to the doctor, blood tests, and maintenance medicine, or I can  choose to just continue with my life minus all these, at least until my next full medical exam in December.
Guess which one I choose?