This is a continuing series using information from the booklet written by the National Institute on Aging working with the National Institutes of Health called: Talking With Your Doctor. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH Publication No. 05-3452 August 2005 (Reprinted April 2010)
What Can I Ask? Getting Information
A good detective asks questions. Most doctors don’t volunteer a lot of information. They may run a quick exam on you and then ask you to go have your blood drawn or they may want you to have an x-ray taken. It is not out of line to ask for the reason(s), what is his/her concerns. As you may already know, some of these tests are just part of the routine and really don’t raise a concern but if you brought a symptom to your doctor is it best to ask what he/she is looking for or hoping to uncover with the test. Here are some questions the booklet suggests asking:
- Why is the test being done?
- What steps does the test involve?
- How should I get ready?
- Are there any dangers or side effects?
- How will I find out the results?
- How long will it take to get the results?
- What will we know after the test?
Of course, when the results are ready, make sure the doctor tells you what they are and explains what they mean. By the way, the booklet also recommends that you ask your doctor for the definitions of any terms that are unclear or unfamiliar to you like aneurysm, hypertension, infarct or for any directions that aren’t clear like taking medication with food; is that during or after a meal, or does that matter?
If you are referred to a specialist it is easy to assume that they will send the results to your primary doctor but that is not always the case so ask that the result be sent.
If the test(s) show results that are not favorable then discuss the diagnosis with your doctor. A diagnosis identifies your disease or physical problem. The booklet states that if you understand your medical condition, you can help make better decisions about treatment. If you know what to expect, it may be easier for you to deal with the condition. The following are some questions the booklet lists that you may want to ask:
- Ask the doctor to tell you the name of the condition and why he or she thinks you have it.
- What may have caused this condition?
- Will it be permanent?
- How is this condition treated or managed?
- What will be the long-term effects on my life?
- How can I learn more about my condition?