Editor’s Note: Meet Nedra McDaniel, a seasoned travel influencer who has embarked on incredible solo, partner and family vacations across the globe. Her love of travel was inspired by her mom, which made it difficult for Nedra when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. In this post, Nedra will share some tips on how to get the most out of your doctor’s visit.
Share Your Medical Family History
It’s important for your doctor to know your family history including physical and mental health.
The more information you think is applicable the better.
For example, in my family history, it was important to share with my provider the age at which my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was also helpful to share the other types of cancer that close family members had.
Your personal, medical and surgical history is also important to share including any allergies and medications you are currenltly or previously have been on.
Try to have that information with dates on your phone or a document with you to help you create a more accurate timeline of your health. It’s always better to share more with your doctor than less.
Share Your Concerns About Your Health
You know your body better than anyone else. If something feels off or isn’t going away, you need to say something to your doctor. Ignoring it in the hopes that it will go away isn’t a great strategy.
Your doctor isn’t a mind reader so if you are having an issue with your physical or mental health you need to tell them. It’s also important to be specific. How long have you noticed symptoms? Has it gotten better or worse? You need to be your own best advocate.
Trust me, I speak from experience.
I recently went to visit my doctor about a small bump on my back that was below the surface of my skin. I noticed it last summer…but this summer the area felt different and more sensitive.
I scheduled a visit with my doctor and she assured me that it was not an emergency. She referred me to a dermatologist who would be able to help me diagnose and hopefully remove it. That visit to my doctor was the first step in finding peace of mind. The next step was scheduling my dermatologist appointment to fully address this issue. If I had never advocated for myself and brought this issue up, we would not be moving towards a resolution!
Share Your Sensitivities and Fears
Do you have specific worries or triggers when you visit the doctor? It’s important to share those with your doctor during your visit. Again, a doctor can’t read your mind so you need to speak up. It will lead to a better experience if you do.
For example, shots have always caused me more anxiety when I visit the doctor. I prefer to be treated with kid gloves when it comes to getting a shot.
I’m open to any tactics that help me not think about the impending needle going to my arm. I don’t want to see the needle or think about it and I let my doctor or nurse know that.
Sometimes it’s easier to catch up on your shots, tests, etc., while you’re already in the room. You can just bite the bullet in the moment and get it done. Sometimes, the hardest part is getting to the appointment that you’re dreading and realistically you’re not going to be as motivated to come back for a shot or procedure that’s not mandatory. That’s why it may be easier to just do it in the moment.
It’s also important to be open about bigger fears. I’m very transparent about my fears of cancer because of my strong family history. That way I can work out a schedule with my doctor to stay on top of testing and screenings.
It’s also helpful for your doctor to know if you have a lot of additional stress due to work or relationships that could be impacting your health and self-care. I will never get tired of saying the more information you provide, the better!
Share Your Preferences
If you experience nervousness or anxiety about visiting a doctor, I get it. I think that most of us adults feel a bit like little kids inside when we visit the doctor.
Time in the waiting room can feel like an eternity even if it’s only been a few minutes.
We don’t always know what to anticipate during our visit and we’re concerned about pain or discomfort. We’re also worried about our diagnosis and whether it requires additional visits.
It’s helpful to let your doctor know your preferences in terms of communication and your overall experience. Some people want to know everything that’s going to happen step by step, while others would rather not have as much detail.
There might be some coping skills that you can use during your visit to help you feel more at ease. Try reading a book or magazine, doodling, doing a crossword puzzle or playing a game on your phone.
Listening to music with headphones can also be a great aid to help you feel more comfortable in the waiting room. You can customize your music selections for calming vibes or your favorite songs.
Share Your Questions
Think about the questions you have for your doctor and write them down before to your visit. Sometimes it’s easier to think about your questions outside of the office, but if more questions come up during your visit feel free to ask.
I like to take notes on my phone because it’s easier for me to refer back to later.
I also write down what my doctor recommends on my phone because I want to make sure that I understood everything correctly, it’s easy to go back to and I don’t want to rely solely on my memory, especially on busy days.
Here are five questions to get you started.
- What are some specific things that I can do to help improve my current health? (It’s great to have a practical action plan)
- Why is it important for me to do this? (Sometimes understanding the “why” helps us better understand the importance of the “what.”)
- What are my options? (Having options can help you feel more in control of your health)
- What happens if I do nothing? (Sometimes the fear of consequences can be a motivator for positive action)
- Do I need to schedule any upcoming cancer screenings? (You can view a checkup checklist for men and women from OhioHealth.)
If you’re looking for a new physician, start by checking whether the doctor is covered by your health insurance. Other factors to consider include their professional and life experience, friendliness and relatability.
It’s important for us to advocate for our health so that we can spend more time with the people we love. OhioHealth’s cancer experts are dedicated to helping their patients feel comfortable and keep making plans. Learn more at OhioHealth.com/KeepMakingPlans.