Asking questions is an essential part of communicating with your doctor during your doctor’s visit. Provider’s bias does exist in the black community and asking questions and being proactive about your health is essential so you can avoid this. If you don’t ask the right questions, your doctor may jump to the conclusion that you already have certain information or that you are not interested in getting more specific information.
Don’t wait for your doctor to broach a subject that you have been concerned about. Your doctor cannot read your mind, nor do they know which topics or issues are important to you. You have to be proactive.
Don’t be afraid to show that you don’t know something. If your doctor uses a word like “hypertension,” “aneurysm,” “anemia,” or some other term you don’t know, ask them to explain it to you. If you are not clear on instructions for post-surgical care or the use of specific prescriptions, ask your doctor for clarification. Here are three things you should ask your doctor about during your check-up.
1. Is This Normal?
Your annual exam is the time to see if symptoms you are experiencing are something you should be concerned about or just a regular part of getting older or living a particular lifestyle. Have you noticed a new skin growth? Are your sleep patterns changing? Do you have new feelings of anxiety? Check with your doctor to see if these things are normal.
Don’t just be content with the answers your doctor gives you. Ask more questions, dig deep, and find out about the factors that could be impacting your health, including family medical history, personal stresses, substance use, and lifestyle habits. It is better to get the answers to the questions you have instead of worrying about whether you should worry about something or not.
Some people worry that if they ask the question, they will get the answer they don’t want to hear. But just because you don’t know about a condition does not mean the situation doesn’t exist. It is better to get the answers you need.
2. Do I Need More Tests?
During your physical exam, your healthcare provider can run additional laboratory tests. They can deep dive into your health to make sure your body is working as it should. During an annual exam, your physician may be able to find problems that are just starting before they progress to the point where they are life-threatening.
Unfortunately, many potentially life-threatening illnesses don’t have symptoms until they are out of control. Examples of these are high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. However, your healthcare provider can order additional blood tests or screenings for vitamin D deficiency, mammograms for breast cancer screening, a colonoscopy for colon cancer, or a lipid test for cholesterol. They may get the answers needed to save your life.
3. What Can I Do to Stay Healthier Going Forward?
Strokes, diabetes and high blood pressure are some of the major health concerns that plague the black community. It’s important to stay aware of these issues and find a reliable black doctor that understands the health disparities within the black community.
In addition to discussing your health concerns and your current health condition, your annual physical is the perfect time to set health goals for the future. Ask your doctor about steps to manage chronic illnesses and other medical conditions. Work with your doctor to lay out concrete plans for the future.
Have your doctor discuss conditions or diseases you may be at risk for. Work with your doctor to create a plan to prevent developing these diseases. For some conditions, getting more exercise might help. Regular visits to a massage therapist or physiotherapist could prevent a relatively minor illness from becoming more serious.
Your health is important. Take it seriously. Before you visit a physician, make a list of questions to ask. It might be hard to start certain conversations with your doctor. In the long run, though, it’s worth it. Connect2heal.com is the best online resource to our black community for finding physicians, specialists, and doctors that share similar or the same backgrounds or race as you.