Previously, I wrote about not being afraid to shop around for your doctor in Shopping? Find the Perfect Fit, so why am I telling you not to change your doctor now?
Sometimes when you’re sick you go to a doctor until you get the results you want. If you go for sickness A and you get a treatment that you think isn’t working you try another doctor, hoping you get the results you want.
Let me tell you why you should be careful when doing that.
I got the inspiration for this post during a presentation on Cervical Cancer. The screening tool used is a Papanicolaou test, otherwise known as, a ‘pap smear’. We spoke about doing a pap smear in the presence of inflammation and that sometimes we cannot wait for the inflammation to clear up before doing the pap smear. Why?
One. We mostly do opportunistic screening for cervical cancer.
Two. That inflammation could be caused by a cervical problem that would be detected on pap smear.
Okay but what’s the point of this story?
In the session we speculated reasons why cervical cancer is diagnosed later than it should be. Using the example above, where a patient has persistent discharge from the vagina and goes to multiple doctors for same, we conculded that it had to do with, how we choose to screen, as well as, patient practice of jumping from doctor to doctor which means dots aren’t connected as quickly as they could have been and diagnoses take longer to be made.
In other words, patient goes to a doctor with sickness A and Doctor 1 treats it. There is no improvement so the patient doesn’t return to Doctor 1 but goes to Doctor 2 who treats sickness A and no improvement. This cycle keeps going and going until finally sickness A’s symptoms gets bad enough to show that it’s actually sickness B and Doctor 25 finally picks this up.
We are strapped for resources, patients do not present as textbook cases and sometimes it takes time and trial and error to make a diagnosis.
The aim of shopping around is to find a doctor who fits your needs and who you have confidence in.
Confidence to the point where, if the treatment doesn’t work you go back and say
“doc it never work, we haffi guh try something else.”
So here are some tips:
Watch how you take your meds
When you get medication for an illness, take the medication exactly how it is prescribed. If you need clarification on how to take the medication ask the pharmacist. However, they’re supposed to explain it to you when they hand it over.
If you have a reaction (swelling of the face, rashes to the skin etc) to the medication let your doctor know immediately and stop taking it. All medications have side effects, and you should be aware of that, some side effects that occur may require that you stop taking the medication.
Go back to your doctor if it doesn’t work. Have a frank and honest conversation. Sometimes it takes more than one visit to make a diagnosis, some illnesses are harder to diagnose than others or require that you consider them only after xyz doesn’t work.
For example, hypothyroidism (when your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones) is a cause of constipation. But the most common cause is dehydration (not drinking enough water).
So if there isn’t a high index of suspicion for hypothyroidism (weight gain, depression, etc) you’ll be treated for more common causes… and when those are exhausted you think of something more sinister.
It is impractical to send everyone with constipation for a Thyroid test without having a high index of suspicion.
Be an honest shopper
If you’re shopping around be honest about it. Let them know you got treated for sickness A by Doctor 1 with Medication Y. Don’t hide that fact, as it could be the reason why you get a more accurate diagnosis.
This happens a lot in dermatology actually, a lot of rashes just look and act very alike… and it gets even more difficult if the patient self treated with a cream or ointment at home. So getting an accurate diagnosis can be hard on the first try.
And to doctors
Remember it’s always in the history and examination! Don’t forget to ask them if they’ ve been treated for this before et cetera et cetera et cetera!
Your doctor should be someone you are able to trust and rely on. You should be able to speak comfortably and confidently with them. You are in charge of your own health, so choose a physician who you believe will give you quality care and to whom you’d be willing to go back if a treatment option fails so you can explore other options.
Read more about choosing the right doctor in Shopping? Find the Perfect Fit.
How is your relationship with your doctor? Let me know!
Samantha C. Johnson
Featured Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash