docI get a slew of email from Hormonology readers that span a wide variety of topics. But, when I notice that a lot of folks are writing to me about the same type of issue, I like to bring it up here because it usually means it’s on a lot of other people’s minds, too.

So, what’s been happening in my inbox lately is that many women have been asking me for medical advice regarding menstrual cycle-related health issues usually because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • Their doctor doesn’t believe their symptoms or take their symptoms seriously–so the doctor won’t order diagnostic tests.
  • Their doctor gave them some tests, but the tests didn’t show anything, so he or she told them not to worry about their ongoing symptoms.
  • Their doctor tried one or more treatments, but the treatments didn’t improve the issue. But, the doctor didn’t offer any other treatment options.

This is when these readers come to me, hoping I’m familiar enough with their particular cycle-related health problem to recommend a test or treatment.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t give out medical advice because I’m not a certified health care provider. I’m a health journalist who specializes in helping you understand the many health and behavioral aspects of your menstrual cycle.

But, this doesn’t mean I don’t want to help. That’s why I’m sharing today’s important advice with you:

If you have a cycle-related health issue–or any other medical issue–that is not being properly addressed by your doctor, you need to fire your doctor or at least get a second opinion.

I should know: Firing my own doctor led me to getting much-needed spinal surgery that will finally alleviate years of severe back pain I’ve endured.

If you’ve been reading my Hormonology Tips for awhile, you’ll probably remember that I’ve been complaining about my bad back for years. But, there was nothing I could do to convince my doctor to give me an MRI, which is a diagnostic test that could reveal if there was a problem with my disc or vertebrae that needed to be addressed with a treatment that could end the pain. Yet, I couldn’t get an MRI without a referral from my doctor, so I was dependent on his approval.

I must have limped into my doctor’s office on five separate occasions unable to sit, stand or move without extreme pain. Yet, he flatly refused to give me any tests because he was convinced my pain would subside on its own. This didn’t stop him from offering me steroid shots, however, which I’m glad I had the moxie to reject since shortly after his offer, it was discovered that contaminated steroid shots were causing deadly meningitis in back patients in my area of the country. Talk about dodging a bullet!

The final time I visited my doctor with severe back pain, I decided I was going to insist on a referral for an MRI. You know what he barked at me in response? “I’m not a McDonald’s drive-thru. You don’t just walk in here and order tests.”

I fired the jerk that day.

I quickly got a referral to another doctor from my neighbor, got in to see him right away, and he ordered an MRI for me immediately. And thank goodness he did: The scan showed a variety of serious, irreversible and progressively worsening disc and vertebrae issues that were causing my pain and ultimately led to my recent spinal fusion surgery. A surgery that is going to finally relieve me of the years of agony I’ve endured.

Looking back, I don’t know why I put up with my first doctor for as long as I did. I guess like anybody, I didn’t want to go through the hassle of researching and finding a new doctor. I also worried the next doctor would be worse than the last one. And, I thought I could manage the situation by trying to finally convince my doctor that I needed the MRI–even if he believed otherwise.

But, don’t do what I did. Don’t wait.

If you have a cycle-related issue that’s not being addressed properly by your health care provider, don’t put up with it. Either fire your physician or, at the very least, get a second opinion from someone else.

All doctors don’t treat patients the same way. Nor do they all know about and/or use the same tests and treatment plans. They’re like hair stylists–they all have the same basic training, but some go for advanced training or have more experience or simply have more talent than others that makes them better at treating your particular issue. And it’s worth taking the time and effort to seek them out.

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[Photo credit: Alex Proimose]

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