22 Sep Have a medical condition? Here’s how to become a member of your own health team
I recently got an email from someone who said that she had 15-day periods.
I figured I was reading her email wrong, maybe English wasn’t her first language or I just didn’t understand what she was saying.
But, nope, in follow-up emails, she clearly explained that her bleeding lasted 15 days, her doctors didn’t know why and, worst of all, the treatments they recommended to her–hormone birth control pills and the hormone IUD–triggered depression, so they weren’t an option.
This reminded me of a time years ago when a colleague told me she had uterine fibroids–benign tumors that grow in your uterus–that had become painful. She went to her gyn who recommended a full hysterectomy as treatment.
As my friend was in her early 40s, she didn’t want to lose her uterus and ovaries, putting her in early and sudden menopause. So, she decided to get a second opinion.
Doctor #2 also recommended a full hysterectomy.
Luckily, my friend had pretty good health insurance. So, she kept going to doctors for more opinions.
Six doctors–and six recommendations of a full hysterectomy later–my friend made an appointment with Doctor #7.
But, something happened on the way to see this latest doctor. My friend caught sight of an article in a magazine that discussed a relatively new treatment back then–“uterine artery embolization”–a minimally invasive procedure that shrinks fibroids and keeps your uterus and ovaries intact.
She stuck the article in her purse, then went to her appointment to get her seventh opinion.
When Doctor #7 insisted she needed a full hysterectomy to treat her fibroids, my friend pulled the article out of her purse and asked about that treatment.
The doctor’s response? “Sure, you could do that, too.”
My friend had the procedure, became pain-free and kept her uterus and ovaries–no hysterectomy was needed.
My point here?
If you have a health issue, you need to be an active member of the team that’s working on your health care.
To do that, do the research. Find out what other procedures are out there that your doctors aren’t telling you about or don’t even know about.
I sent the reader with 15-day periods links to a couple of websites that compile medical studies and explained to her how to search them. Within minutes of perusing the sites myself, I found one possible hormone-free procedure she could discuss with her doctors that they may not have brought up to her.
So, I’d like to share these websites with you and show you how to search them, too, in case you have a medical issue and you can’t find the right treatment or you’re not happy with your current treatment.
First, let’s start with websites that are written in easy-to-understand terms:
At these websites, you can simply do a search for your condition and symptoms.
At WebMD and the Mayo Clinic website, you’ll learn about the condition and often get a rundown of all the common treatments currently available.
At ScienceDaily, you’ll read about medical studies done regarding your condition and that may cover new treatments–or new twists on existing treatments–that aren’t as common. Because these are written from press releases, they’re easy to read. However, this also means that only a few select studies have been written about, so it’s not nearly as comprehensive as the websites that compile studies from medical journals that I’m about to share with you.
Okay, so let’s discuss those medical study compilation websites: Here’s where you’re going to search through actual medical journals and read “abstracts”, which are simply summaries of the studies.
To make it easy, start by doing an “advanced search” (I’ve linked to the advanced search pages here for you):
Type the name of your condition into the search box–then select title in the field menu. (At least in your first search, which will whittle down the results. You can do a second search for the condition and select abstract in the field menu to get more results.)
Now, here’s where it can get a little tricky. Try to use the medical term for the condition you have. If you don’t know it, you can usually find out by doing a quick search online for your condition. Here are a few menstrual cycle-related terms:
Menorrhagia: Long periods that come at regular intervals.
Dysmenorrhea: Excessively painful menstrual cramps.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: Severe premenstrual syndrome.
Once you find a study abstract with your condition’s term in the title, click on the link to open it up. You’re quickly going to see it’s written with a lot of medical and science jargon. Don’t let that throw you. Many abstracts have enough regular everyday terms for you to get the general gist.
If you find a treatment that looks interesting–even if you don’t fully understand what the study is saying–and you want to know more about it, simply do more a search for it online (many doctors and medical students write about new studies in their blogs) and/or print out the abstract and take it to your doctor.
You may be surprised by the wide variety of treatments out there that you rarely, if ever, hear about. Or you may stumble across a brand-new treatment that hasn’t yet trickled down to the doctors who can implement it.
By doing your own research, you can be sure you’re not missing out on a treatment that’s better for you.
If you’ve got questions about how to do the research, let me know!
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