Talking to your doctor about endometriosis can be a bit intimidating. You don’t want to be pushy or insult their medical expertise with your late-night Google search. But, 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. This, 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 challenging.
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 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 doctors are quick to dismiss you and downplay symptoms when you try to combine your health concerns during your annual exam. A lot of this has to do with how our health care system is structured. Unfortunately, doctors aren’t given much 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 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
I wasn’t really good at preparing for my appointments in advance. I 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 want to understand how your pain and symptoms impact your fertility?
Have in mind what you’re seeking to get out of the appointment. Determine what questions to ask, pain points to discuss, and what you want to focus on. And share your objective with your doctor at the beginning of the appointment.
Create A List of Questions
Write out questions that fall in line with the 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 you may want to discuss with your doctor. Regardless, take the time to research and determine what issues need to be addressed and answered.
Compile Your Health History
Create a notebook, folder, or journal with all pertinent health information. For example, include lab results, relevant medical records, and a list of medications and supplements you’re taking. Additionally, have information regarding your family history of endometriosis if applicable.
You’ll also want to include a symptom log detailing your pain and symptom severity. And make copies of this information to be included with your medical chart. Doing so establishes a symptom history and gives your doctor a reference to go back to when needed.
During the Appointment
I remember going to appointments and asking questions or clarifying specific points and being scared to ask them to do so. This is silly. I have a right to inquire why my doctor chooses the treatment plan they’re recommending. 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, asking a doctor to do their job and communicate effectively doesn’t make you problematic. On the contrary, 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 explicitly describing it. Use phrases such as sharp stabbing pain, dull aching throb, and pulsating pain. Emphasize how this pain interferes with your quality of life. Explain how you’re unable to work or go to school because of it.
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 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. If not, you can always work with your insurance to find another doctor that will be better for you.
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 plan out the logistics of paying for your care. Lastly, having a support system can help you navigate doctor’s appointments. Additionally, a sound 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.