Talking to Your Doctor About Menopause
Knowing how to talk to your doctor or other members of your health care team can help you get the information you need about menopause. Here are some tips for better communication:
Make a list of concerns and questions to take to your visit with your doctor. While you're waiting to be seen, use the time to review the list and organize your thoughts.
Describe your symptoms clearly and briefly. Say when they started, how they make you feel, what triggers them, and what you've done to relieve them.
Tell your doctor this important information:
- What prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbal products, and other supplements you're taking
- Your diet, physical activity, smoking, alcohol or drug use, and sexual history
- Your allergies to drugs, foods, or other things
Don't forget to mention if you are being treated by other doctors.
Don't feel embarrassed about discussing sensitive topics. Chances are, your doctor has heard it before! Don't leave something out because you're worried about taking up too much time. Be sure to have all concerns addressed before you leave.
If your doctor orders tests, be sure to ask how to find out about results and how long it takes to get them. Get instructions for what you need to do to get ready for the test(s) and find out about any dangers or side effects with the test(s).
When you are given medication and other treatments, ask your doctor about them. Talk about the latest studies and recommendations for treating menopausal symptoms. Ask how long treatment will last and whether to expect side effects. Make sure you understand how to take your medication; what to do if you miss a dose; if there are any foods, drugs, or activities you should avoid when taking the drug; and if you can take a generic brand.
Understand everything before you leave your visit. If you don't understand something, ask to have it explained again.
Bring a family member or trusted friend with you to your visit. That person can take notes, offer moral support, and help you remember what was discussed. You can also have that person ask questions, as well.
Get a Second Opinion
Because we're always learning more about menopause treatment options and hormone therapy, it can be confusing to figure out how to treat or manage menopausal symptoms. It is important for you to trust your doctor so that you can openly discuss your concerns and treatment options. Then you can make informed decisions about your health that you feel good about. If you feel that you have talked openly with your doctor and still don't feel satisfied, think about getting a second opinion.
Getting a second opinion from a different doctor might give you a fresh perspective and more information on treatments. Here are some tips for how to get a second opinion:
- Ask your doctor to recommend another doctor or specialist for another opinion. Don't worry about hurting your doctor's feelings.
- If you don't feel comfortable asking your doctor for recommendations, contact another doctor you trust. You can also call university teaching hospitals and medical societies in your area for names of doctors. Some of this information is available on the Internet.
- Always check with your health insurance provider first to make sure the cost of a second opinion is covered. Many health insurance providers do. Ask if there are any special procedures you or your primary care doctor need to follow for referrals.
- Arrange to have your medical records sent to the second opinion doctor before your visit. This gives the new doctor time to look at your records and can help you to avoid repeating medical tests.
- Learn as much as you can. Ask your doctor for information you can read, go to a local library, or do a search on the Internet. Some teaching hospitals and universities have medical libraries that are open to the public. But sorting through information that is complicated and sometimes contradictory can be a daunting task. List your questions and concerns and bring the list to discuss with the doctor.
- Never rely solely on the telephone or Internet for a second opinion. When you get a second opinion, you need to be seen in person by a doctor. A sound second opinion includes a physical exam and a thorough review of your medical records. Don't forget to ask the doctor to send a written report to your primary care doctor and get a copy for your records.