Empower yourself with a life-saving advantage.
You’re the expert on your own health.
No one knows your health like you do! It’s your awareness, your voice, and your actions that can help you recognize cancer symptoms early, and take steps to give yourself a life saving advantage.
“Never give up when advocating for your health”Paige Mustain Duodenal Cancer At 27
“Don’t let embarrassment stop you from getting the correct diagnosis”Candy MejiaOvarian Cancer at 15
The 3 Steps
Follow these simple steps and start taking control of your health today.
Remember What Great Feels Like
Knowing how you feel when you’re at your best will help you notice small changes in your overall health that could be signs of larger health problems. That means paying attention to your energy level, sleep patterns, weight, skin, and bathroom habits on a regular basis.
Use The 2-Week Rule
If you notice a subtle change in your normal health that lasts two weeks or more, it’s time to call your doctor and learn what is causing the changes. While not every change is cause for concern, seeing a doctor after two weeks will not cause harm—waiting could.
Share With Your Doctor
Taking action and talking to your doctor about small health changes is your best pathway to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment. It’s important to communicate openly and honestly so you and your doctor together can make the most informed decisions, and get you back to full health. Even if it’s a hard or embarrassing conversation to have, what’s most important is getting the best care possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
My health change has lasted for 2 weeks but it doesn’t seem like a big deal and I can still get through my day. Can I wait a few more weeks?
While it’s common to be unsure about whether or not to call you doctor, it is time to call after 2 weeks of a health change. Feeling bad or “just not yourself” for 2 weeks or more is a sign that you need to make an appointment. You can start by calling the office and talking to the nurse or other member of the healthcare team or emailing your doctor. Explain your health change(s), how long it has persisted, any self-care that you have tried and how it helped or not. They will be able to offer suggestions about your best next step and tell you if you need to come in to the office.
This is a great question to ask your doctor after you are prescribed a treatment plan. Ask, when should you feel better and what should you do if you don’t. Staying in touch if you don’t feel better is important. Sometimes, a treatment plan is not effective and you may need a different treatment.
The answer can vary depending on your diagnosis and treatment. Call your doctor’s office and explain your situation and ask if you should be feeling better. It may be time for a return visit. If the answer is “not yet”, ask when you should start feeling better and what should you do if you don’t.
Make notes – on paper or in your phone – and bring them to your appointment.
- Your medical history (i.e., past and current disease, injury, treatment)
- Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications (including vitamins and supplements) that you take.
- The top three concerns you want addressed.
- For specific health changes, note when you first noticed it, what you were doing immediately before that, how is it unusual for you, any self-care you have tried (i.e. over the counter medicines) and how much it helped.
Then practice telling your story to your doctor.
Not knowing medical terms is fine and expected. The best way to describe how you feel is to use your own words and do your best to describe what feels different and why it doesn’t seem right. If your doctor doesn’t understand what you mean or wants more clarification, s/he will ask you questions. Your words are the best words. Only the people who went to medical school are expected to know medical lingo.
The health changes I am feeling are embarrassing and hard to talk about. Do I need to bring them up?
If you feel nervous or embarrassed to talk to your doctor – you’re not alone! It’s common. Keep in mind, your doctor has many other patients and what is embarrassing to you is very likely something your doctor has helped others with before. It’s hard to imagine but your super embarrassing symptom is probably no big deal to your doctor. Not bringing it up only hurts you. Doctors can’t feel what you are feeling. If you don’t speak up, it is very hard for them to help you.
My doctor doesn’t seem to listen or understand me. S/he is the medical expert, how important is my input?
The short answer is very important.
Good health care requires a team – your doctor and you. Your doctor brings medical expertise to the team and you bring information about you; what is normal for your health and ways your health has changed. When you work together, you get best care. Without good communication and understanding, delays in diagnosis occur. Keep in mind, most doctors are well intentioned and want to provide good care. In today’s health care environment though, they’re rushed and often have less than 15 minutes to spend with you. While that means you should be prepared, it does not mean you should settle for a doctor who does not listen. It may be time to find a new doctor.
Trust your instincts and share you concern with your doctor. Many people see physicians as authority figures and find it hard to share concerns like these or to say “I don’t agree” or “I don’t feel that you are hearing me.” Open, honest and respectful collaboration is the key to good health care so share your concerns.
Doctors can be under a lot of pressure to see too many people in too little time. But if yours doesn’t let you ask questions, share in decision-making, or participate in your care, it’s time to look for a doctor who does.
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