When we go to the doctor, she checks our weight, blood pressure, lungs, etc. When we go our gyno, she checks, well, other things. If we’re having irregular periods, lots of cramping, or other common complaints, we ask our doctor if we should be concerned or what to do. But there are some vital questions that you might not be asking your doctors, whether at annual visits or when you’re not feeling well, such as:
Do I need any health screenings?
If you have a family history of health problems “ early cancer or heart trouble, for example, ask your doctor if you need to be screened earlier than usual. (For example, most doctors won’t suggest a mammogram until you’re forty, but if your mom or sister was diagnosed young with cancer, your doctor may schedule one earlier).
How do I get copies of my records?
This can be important if you are moving, or if you are going to see a specialist. Sometimes your doctor will forward records, x-rays, text results, etc., but sometimes they won’t. Some doctors will provide you with CD of results or make copies right then; others might require a fee or special forms. Ask this question now, not when you suddenly need your records or results.
Should I be worried about drug interactions?
Your doctor probably knows what medications you are currently taking, but if she doesn’t let her know, so she doesn’t prescribe anything that might cause a serious interaction. This goes for herbal and vitamin supplements, too, which can also have surprisingly serious interactions. (For example, Echinacea should not be taken with heart medications, St. John’s Wort should not be combined with anti-depressants.)
What should I be looking for in results from this medication, and how will I know if it’s not working?
This is important – sometimes a medication just doesn’t work or takes longer to work, and you need to know what to look for! Another related question is Will I know if I’m getting worse? This may sound like a silly question, but we might dismiss new symptoms as just more of the same when actually we are getting sicker.
When do I need to see you again?
If your doctor’s visit is not just a regular exam and you are being treated for a condition or disease, ask when you need to schedule a follow-up if your doctor doesn’t tell you up front.