I never knew when to seek a second opinion. Looking back, I settled for some pretty pathetic treatment from medical professionals—especially when it pertained to my reproductive health. Thankfully, I’ve learned from those experiences and approach my health and medical care differently. I take an active part in my health and prioritize working with a doctor that’s willing to do the same. Because anyone that isn’t team Kat and truly wants the best for me and my endometriosis has to go. And, you should have the same mindset and approach to your health and well-being! So, on that note, I’m going to share with you the 5 red flag situations I’ve experienced that have taught me to walk away and seek a second opinion.
Not Receiving Fair Unbiased Treatment
I was chastised and belittled by doctors for the majority of my 20’s. I was told that my debilitating periods couldn’t be that painful, denied pain medication, period pain normalized, and that my issues with chronic constipation were completely normal. Furthermore, upon sharing my family history of endometriosis and fibroids, there was never any discussion about the possibility that these could pose issues. In other words, I know a thing or two about not receiving fair treatment from doctors. And, this has taught me to look for signs regarding when to seek a second opinion regarding my health concerns.
This is why when present tense Kat is dismissed when presenting symptoms, concerns, discussing valid pain points, and medical history raises a huge red flag. The reason being that it’s every person’s right to have access to fair, unbiased treatment. This means pain points should be listened to and respected. Symptoms should be investigated to identify the root cause. Most importantly, a person’s medical history and the risk of certain diseases should definitely be evaluated.
Additionally, if the doctor has a poor attitude and is patronizing that, in my opinion, it is a clear display of bias that’s slipping to the surface. Doctors that follow this model of medical care aren’t part of my dream team. And they shouldn’t be for you either.
Diagnosed with A Specific Illness
Gone are the days that I rely on general practitioners. No offense to them, but I have SPECIFIC issues. Just as their name implies, GP’s are great for handling general matters. But, when it comes to complex problems such as endometriosis, fibroids, and infertility, I need someone specializing in these conditions. Something that I’ve learned since going undiagnosed for 18+ years is that many of the doctors I was going to weren’t adequately educated about endometriosis, fibroids, or infertility.
Consequently, they couldn’t identify it correctly because they weren’t trained to look for these conditions. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that many of the symptoms associated with endometriosis (I’m looking at you painful periods and chronic pelvic pain) are common symptoms associated with other conditions. Patients, such as myself that present symptoms synonymous with these disorders are misdiagnosed, overlooked, dismissed, and mistreated because these symptoms are being confused for something else.
Working with primary care providers and knowing when to seek a second opinion is crucial. This is why I always recommend to anyone who believes or suspects they have conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, or PCOS to seek a specialist for diagnosis. They know what they’re looking for and have the proper tools and means to diagnose and treat you. And, if you’re currently working with a physician that isn’t adequately trained and educated regarding your condition, don’t be scared to look for someone that is. You deserve the best level of care period.
Unsuccessful Treatment or Dissatisfied with Treatment
I was never satisfied, happy, or comfortable taking the pill. Upon reflection, there were so many reasons why I shouldn’t have been prescribed hormonal birth control in the first place. The main one being my history of depression and anxiety. Issues that every doctor that prescribed me the birth control pill failed to discuss, clarify, explain, and go over with me. I did the digging and research and discovered how the pill impacted my mental health negatively and INCREASED my depression and anxiety. There definitely needs to be a discussion surrounding informed consent, but that’s a topic for a future post.
Learn from my experience and know that this is when to seek a second opinion. Honestly, if you’re not comfortable with your treatment plan seeking a second opinion is essential. And while treatment success and failure is a tricky slope to navigate. Particularly considering it can’t always be the end, all be all factor in determining whether a doctor is doing their job or not. Treatments fail for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the physician. However, it may be an indicator that a fresh perspective or a new pair of eyes is needed. Furthermore, if you’re uncomfortable with the treatment options, your physician is offering exploring a second opinion can prove insightful.
Failure to Properly Diagnose Symptoms
I rarely talk about why I stopped going to the doctor in my late 20’s and early 30’s due to the medical trauma I experienced years before. I began to believe that it was pointless because they were going to tell me the same thing I’d heard since I was 18 “Nothing’s wrong, painful periods are your lot in life.” My problem with this was they would provide this slapstick diagnosis without actually running tests and taking me through a diagnostic process. And, while one part of me gets that, my symptoms were familiar to them, and they truly believed I had primary dysmenorrhea that would resolve itself in the future. The part of me that went undiagnosed for 18 years and lost an ovary is enraged. They ignored my family history of a mother with uterine fibroids and a sister with endometriosis. And they failed to perform proper screenings and tests. A simple imaging test could’ve revealed the cysts on my ovaries and prevented the scarring, adhesions, and damage that caused me to lose my left ovary.
This is why it’s important for patients to know when to seek a medical opinion. Additionally, doctors not taking patient’s pain seriously, and providing individual patient-centric care is problematic. Unbiased, group-centric care is a necessity for proper medical care. Failure to provide this type of care is why so many women are struggling for years and are misdiagnosed. So, if a doctor doesn’t listen to you and run the appropriate tests to determine why you’re in pain or displaying symptoms. It’s time to seek a second opinion.
Outdated Approach to Women’s Health & Fertility
Much of what I knew about endometriosis was based on archaic information shared with me by medical professionals and ill-informed friends. Which entailed endometriosis being defined as retrograde mensuration or endometrial tissue that began to grow outside of the uterus. News flash both definitions have been proven wrong. Retrograde menstruation isn’t exclusive to endometriosis patients and endometriotic implants are SIMILAR to the tissue found on the uterine lining but not the same. Furthermore, at the beginning of my endo journey, I was told that I didn’t present with enough pain to have endo—a lie that I carried with me for years. The reality is that endo has a broad pain spectrum that goes from 0-1000+. And, it affects each person differently, causing symptoms to display uniquely for each patient.
Another myth I was told was that I was too young to have endometriosis since I complained of symptoms in my late teens and early 20’s. However, endo can begin presenting symptoms in adolescence, as is the case with many sufferers. What was really frustrating was that these discussions about endometriosis and fibroids were always initiated by ME. Not only did I have a firm understanding of my family history but I did my own research and learned that I was at a higher risk because of my family history.
Are you as disappointed as me? We need our doctors to do better. That means staying up to date on relevant research and information to the patients they treat. At a minimum, they should be able to properly screen patients for possible endometriosis and refer them to a specialist for proper diagnosis. This is why, understanding where your doctor stands when it comes to knowledge, and keeping up with advancements in women’s health and fertility is necessary. If they’re holding onto old, outdated methods, update your doctor for someone with more current knowledge. If I knew when to seek a medical opinion and how to properly advocate for my health I could’ve gotten a proper diagnosis earlier.
Now that I know how to advocate for myself and I’ve found my voice, I’m better prepared to manage my endometriosis. I’m not scared to walk away from a doctor who isn’t prioritizing my health and get a second opinion. I don’t work for them; they work for ME. Furthermore, I’m the one that has to live in this body. And, I know when something’s not right. This is why education, body literacy, and knowing your rights as a patient is so important. Don’t allow any medical professional to belittle, shame, or mistreat you in the misguided notion that they’re better. Just because they wear a lab coat and have Dr. in front of their name doesn’t make them a god and above questioning. Do what is necessary to achieve the proper diagnosis and treatment you need to live your best life. Which includes knowing when to seek a second opinion.
Further Reading & References
Very Well Health Top 5 Reasons to Get A Second Opinion by Sherri Gordon, fact-checked by Lisa Sullivan MS updated on March 28, 2020
About the Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m a health and wellness professional turned freelance writer and content creator. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!
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