*Let’s just keep it real here, OK? You have to be darn near dead to even step foot in a doctors office, right? Black folk just don’t do doctors unless we absolutely have to.
Personally, I changed that habit about a year ago. Just ask my insurance company. The new ME will feel an ache somewhere that I’ve never felt one before and I’ll be a walk-in at my doctors office…that day!
But even with that, I am still a bit shy to ask certain questions. Even shier if the doctor is handsome. I’ll bet I’m not alone in that. I won’t subscribe to the T.M.I. strategy today, and reveal the question I asked my nurse practitioner yesterday; But I WILL say it was a step up from the shyness this patient had in the past.
I decided to share 10 questions you’re probably afraid to ask your doctor as a result of my brainstorm in deciding what you might to hear today. I’d appreciate it if you’d respond by adding to the list in the ThisNthat comments section. What questions are YOU afraid to ask your doctor?
Do I have cancer?
We all know someone who jumps to the worst case scenario at every ache and pain (maybe that someone is you?), but there’s a lot to look out for when it comes to our health. Rather than losing sleep about a weird knot in our skin or a headache that won’t go away, make an appointment with your doctor and tell them to cut to the chase. The answer is likely, “No, it’s just allergies.” But the never-ending cramps? They might decide to run a few tests.
Are my allergies serious?
People often adapt to the symptoms of their allergies—sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, etc.—to the point that they don’t realize they’re getting worse. The side effects of allergies can veer into life-threatening. Even if you just have a stuffy nose in spring, or uncontrollable sneezing around your mother-in-law’s cat, ask your doctor about ways to manage the symptoms and when to know you need stronger treatment.
Flag frequent headaches with your doctor, since they could be a sign of underlying medical issues. Even those that have no obvious cause can be treated, sometimes with stronger medicine than you can get at the drugstore. In any case, your doctor should be made aware of your headaches, so that you both will know if they’re getting more frequent or worse.
What happened to my sex drive?
A change in a person’s sex drive can be an embarrassing thing to admit, even in confidence to one’s doctor. While hormonal swings as we age are normal, a drastic change in one’s sex drive may be a sign of a deeper medical problem. Your doctor might want to run more tests—or refer you to therapy if she suspects it’s due more to problems in your relationships. Either way, outside help is necessary.
Am I too old to get pregnant?
Female fertility has a wide range and really comes down to the individual’s DNA and health. So while your doctor won’t likely be able to say for certain your chances of getting pregnant, she can talk through your health history with you and, if you’ve already struggled to get pregnant, refer you to fertility specialists who can provide more intensive therapies and strategies. Your doctor should also be able to talk through with you when you no longer have to worry about getting pregnant, and when birth control is no longer necessary to avoid pregnancy.
Am I clinically depressed?
Depression is that strange disease wherein the worse it gets, the less able you are to identify it yourself so that you can get help. If you’re prone to bouts of even low-level depression, ask your doctor about it. Find out where the line is from feeling down to needing treatment, and put a plan in place so that others can step in and help you receive it if that time ever comes.
Can you recommend …a different doctor?
A trusting relationship with one’s doctor is key to getting good health care. When you feel as if your doctor isn’t a great match, it’s better to address sooner than later. If it’s easier to do over the phone, then make time for the call. If you know it during an appointment, calmly explain that while you know it’s a bit awkward to say, you think you’d feel more comfortable with a doctor who is female/speaks your home language/shares your cultural background/has experience with treating obese or infertile or crunchy/hippie patients. They might even have a colleague in their practice who is a better fit
Will sex always be painful for me?
If sex has recently become painful, be sure to tell your doctor. At the end of that discussion, ask if this is the new normal. Painful sex is a sign of other issues, either structural or hormonal—both of which are treatable. But you need to know whether you should make changes in how you approach sex with your partner, and for that, you both need to understand whether the changes are permanent.
Do I poop enough?
Is once a day enough? Less than once a day? Is that normal? Dangerous? Treatable? Doctors ask parents about their kids’ bowel movement frequency but often stop once we’re grown-ups. If you’re not regular, or don’t go frequently, just ask. Maybe it’s OK, maybe you need more fiber, or maybe you’re setting yourself up for future problems.
Why do I stink?
Hormones determine how we smell, and hormones change over time. Therefore, how we smell changes, too, and sometimes that can freak us out. If you think you’ve started smelling bad, tell your doctor. It’s less a question about vanity and more of an attempt to flag symptoms of something that needs to be treated. But you can also ask if there’s a way to mask or change the new odors you don’t like.
Can I have a few minutes to ask more questions?
I must admit, the doctor I have had for the past year has NEVER made me feel he didn’t have time to answer any question I’ve had. I noticed this Russian doctor always seems to take his time with patients. But we are the fortunate few…
Doctors’ time with each patient is limited. But you only see them once a year for a checkup. Be assertive and, if you have more questions, ask for more time. It’s helpful to keep your questions brief, particularly if you have several. But don’t short-change yourself. And acknowledging that you know they’re busy and have other appointments shows you don’t take their time for granted. If all else fails, just start asking.
What questions are YOU afraid to ask your doctor?
Madeline Holler presents 10 additional questions in her Mom.me article