How many times have you gone to the doctor for a very vague pain only to be given ibuprofen? You return to the doctor weeks later with an additional symptom; your doctor takes some blood and tells you to come in next week for the results. When you return the doctor informs you that nothing was found in your blood work and your symptoms may be stress related. Since you’ve never experienced this type of pain you begin to worry. You wait a few more months and continue to have pain and now some numbness. When you go back to the doctor, he seems a bit irritated but runs additional blood test anyway. Again, nothing is found. He tells you to continue taking the ibuprofen and also offers you an additional pain killer; you leave the office frustrated and concerned. You have decided that maybe the doctor is right and it’s all in your head. You go on like this for almost a year until the pain becomes unbearable. This time you see a new doctor who immediately orders several special tests. You are called in to see him two weeks later only to discover that you have a rare form of cancer and 3 months to live. In disbelief you think back to when this all started and wonder what you could have done differently.
The above example although extreme is what happens to men and women every day. They go to their doctor’s office knowing that something is wrong. They accept whatever the doctor tells them because they feel the doctor is the expert. This simple mistake could potentially cause you harm or even death. In the world of medicine today our physician’s are overwhelmed by the number of patients they see. Most doctors’ offices schedule patients 15 minutes apart causing long delays and hurried visits. When you go to the doctor you have to be your own advocate. Nobody knows your body better than you do and this knowledge may help to save your life. Here are some steps to take to be your own advocate.
1. Write symptoms down. Because we live such busy lives, when we are in pain we only tend to remember the most severe symptoms. By writing any new or unusual symptom down, you may be able to help your doctor to pinpoint the problem.
2. Ask questions. If the doctor prescribes medicines or orders tests that you don’t understand; ask him what the test are for and what benefit the medicines will have for you. Your doctor should be able to make you feel reassured about any plan of action he comes up with. If your doctor is difficult to talk with or does not answer your questions in a way that you understand; you need to find another doctor.
3. Get a second opinion. Nobody is perfect including your doctor. If you are not satisfied with the diagnosis; ask for a second opinion. Most doctors getting transfer patients like to run their own tests. This could be to your benefit, especially if an error was made at your lab. Two opinions are always better than one.
4. Do your research. The internet provides you with numerous tools to search any symptom or illness. Input your information and see what comes out. Many patients have diagnosed themselves successfully via the internet and had the diagnosis verified by their doctor. Sometimes doctors are not as familiar with certain diseases or manifestations of diseases. The information that you provide could be the clue your doctor needed to make the correct diagnosis.
5. Report any adverse effects. Any medications or treatments prescribe that cause harmful side effects should be reported immediately to your doctor. He can then assist you with changing your medications or lowering your dosages.
6. Take care of yourself. Eat right and exercise if possible to help keep your body in its best physical condition. Many times when people get sick, just by changing what they eat and adding exercise they start to feel better.
7. Find the answer. Don’t give up if you don’t immediately find an answer to your medical situation. Keep asking questions, researching the internet and talking with your doctor. Ask about specialists or pain management if necessary. If you know that something is wrong, keep searching until you have an answer.
For those suffering individuals out there looking for some help; you have to be the loudest voice in the cause of YOU. Remember, no one is going to care more about your well-being and quality of life that you will. Follow the steps above and take charge of your health care. Your life may very well depend on it.