When it comes to talking to your doctor about endometriosis, it can be a bit intimidating. You don’t want to be pushy or insult their medical expertise with your late-night Google search. However, you KNOW your body, and you know when something’s not right. Hence why you’ve been researching symptoms such as debilitating period pain, abnormal pelvic cramping outside of your period, ovulation pain, and digestive issues. Which, in turn, led you to the possibility that endometriosis could be causing these symptoms. Yet, suspecting endometriosis and getting your doctor to take your pain seriously can be a challenge.
I struggled for years to find a doctor that would take my pain and symptoms seriously. Unfortunately for me, my symptoms and pain were only recognized when I developed two large chocolate cysts on each of my ovaries. And, while there’s no doubt that more awareness is needed in the medical community for how to accurately diagnose endometriosis in its early stages. I also believe that increased awareness of patients is imperative. Particularly knowing how to talk to your doctor about endometriosis, being persistent in getting a proper diagnosis, and knowing when to seek a second opinion. Had I indeed been more aware of endometriosis and how to talk to my doctors, I would’ve had the courage to advocate for my health better and not waste my time with doctors that ignored my pain and symptoms.
Talking to Your Doctor Starts BEFORE The Appointment
Believe it or not, talking to your doctor about endometriosis starts before you enter their office. Planning in advance how you want the appointment to go can empower you to speak up and advocate for your health. This consequently prevents the likelihood that your doctor will railroad you or skip over your concerns. Hence why it’s imperative to schedule a specific appointment to address your pain and symptoms. Meaning, don’t try to discuss your issues during your annual exam.
I’ve learned from experience that when you try to combine your health concerns during your annual/preventative health exam, doctors are quick to dismiss you and downplay them. A lot of this has to do with how our health care system is structured. Unfortunately, doctors aren’t given a lot of time with their patients during appointments. Most of the work, such as vitals and blood work, is done by the medical assistant or nurse. Generally, when the doctor visits with you, they only have 10-15 minutes to perform the exam and go over your chart. When you think about it, that’s not a lot of time. So, do yourself a favor and dedicate an appointment to discuss your pain and symptoms—that way, your doctor can focus on addressing those issues specifically.
Preparing for The Appointment
Something that I wasn’t really good at was preparing for my appointments in advance. I kinda just scheduled them and left all the work up to my doctor. As I mentioned, this was an issue because they have so little time to really pry and dig deep. This is why coming to appointments focused and prepared is helpful. Think of it as directing your doctor’s knowledge and expertise. But how does one correctly prepare for a doctor’s appointment?
Determine Your Objective
Know and understand what you’re seeking to accomplish with this appointment. Do you want to find solutions to address your pain? Are you seeking an accurate diagnosis and possible surgical intervention? Or maybe you’re wanting to understand how your pain and symptoms impact your fertility? Having in mind what you’re seeking to get out of the appointment will help you know what questions to ask, pain points to discuss, and what you want to focus on during that time with your doctor. Additionally, it will help you determine if your doctor addressed these needs satisfactorily and if you need to seek a second opinion.
Create A List of Questions
Write out questions that fall in line with your primary objective for your appointment. For instance, if you want to focus on getting an accurate diagnosis for endometriosis some questions you might want to ask include:
- What is the diagnostic process for endometriosis?
- Do you specialize in diagnosing and treating endometriosis?
- What treatment options are available for treating mild stages of endometriosis?
- What treatment options are available for treating severe stages of endometriosis?
- Are you qualified to perform exploratory laparoscopy?
- Are you eligible to perform endometriosis excision surgery?
- What are alternative treatment options for endometriosis outside of hormonal therapy?
- How can endometriosis impact my fertility if it’s not treated or corrected?
These are just some general questions that you may want to discuss with your doctor. Regardless, take the time to do your research and determine what issues need to be addressed and answered according to your goals and objective for your appointment.
Compile Your Health History
Create a notebook, folder, or journal with all of your pertinent health information. Include lab results, relevant medical records, and a list of medications and supplements you’re taking. Furthermore, you may want to take it a step further and include information regarding your family history of endometriosis if this applies to you. You’ll also want to add a journal that records your pain and symptom severity. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure to make copies of this information to leave it with them to include with your medical chart. Doing so gives your doctor a reference to go back to if needed.
During the Appointment
I remember going to appointments and wanting to ask questions or have them clarify specific points and being so scared to ask them to do so. This is silly, I have a right to inquire about why my doctor is choosing the treatment plan they’re choosing. I’m allowed to say no and ask to try something different instead. But, I was so fearful because whenever I decided to do these things in my past experiences, I was patronized and accused of being “problematic.” However, to be clear, demanding a doctor do their job and communicate effectively with you doesn’t mean you’re problematic; it means you CARE about yourself.
Learn from my mistakes and be confident and empowered during your appointment. State the purpose of your visit and share all the necessary information regarding your health history. Then elaborate on your pain and symptoms being as descriptive as possible. Go into detail regarding when you first noticed signs, how often they occur, how long they last, and pain intensity. Also, make it a point to SHOW them where the pain is while describing the pain explicitly. Use phrases such as sharp stabbing pain, dull aching throb, and pulsating pain. Emphasize how this pain interferes with your quality of life and that you’re unable to work or go to school because of it.
Whatever you do, avoid minimizing or downplaying your pain or symptoms. If it helps, have your partner or a trusted source accompany you during your appointment to chime in and help illustrate how debilitating symptoms are for you.
After the Appointment
Perhaps, you’re like me, and it takes you some time to digest everything during your appointment. That’s totally ok just make sure to designate time to replay what happened. Was your main goal and objective met to your satisfaction? Are you happy with the direction you’re working towards? Did they answer your questions? Was your experience positive or negative? Were your symptoms taken seriously, or were they downplayed?
Answering these questions can help you decide if you’re on the right path and with the right doctor. If you find that you’re not happy with how the appointment went, you can always reschedule and try again. If you just don’t jive with the doctor and find they were dismissive and didn’t take you seriously, it could be time to seek another doctor. Ensure that you obtain a copy of your medical records from that appointment and see if they’re able to provide you with a referral to another doctor.
Talking to your doctor about endometriosis isn’t easy. Getting an endometriosis diagnosis isn’t easy. But, remaining vigilant and advocating for your health will help you on your health journey. Furthermore, educating yourself about endometriosis can help improve how you talk about symptoms with doctors. Joining endometriosis support groups and talking to other women with endometriosis will encourage you. And may lead you to endo specialists and surgeons qualified to diagnose and treat endometriosis.
Additionally, speaking to your insurance company about laparoscopy, excision surgery, endometriosis specialists, and other endometriosis treatments can help with planning out the logistics with paying for your care. Lastly, having a support system can help you navigate the doctor’s appointments. Additionally, a good support system will also give you the strength you need mentally and emotionally. Whether it’s your partner, close friend, or family member, surround yourself with people dedicated to being there. Don’t be discouraged and don’t give up.