The patient-doctor relationship is one that relies on trust and communication. As a patient, you trust that when you turn to your doctor with your concerns, list of symptoms, questions and medical history, he or she will provide you with answers or, at the very least, make a concerted effort to find answers.
However, what if you feel that your doctor betrayed your trust by dismissing your concerns and symptoms as nothing more than a side-effect of worry, stress or a common ailment? Should you trust that the doctor is right and just hope for the best? Or should you probe deeper and maybe even get a second option? The Society To Improve Diagnosis in Medicine details a few steps to take when you feel uncomfortable with your physician’s option.
You have the right to question your doctor’s diagnosis or opinion, and to dig deeper into your diagnosis (or lack thereof). Exercise this right by asking why he or she feels your symptoms are no cause for concern. If the doctor is adamant that your concerns are invalid, ask what else your symptoms could be indicative of. Finish up by inquiring as to what you should do if your symptoms get worse or do not subside.
Request a referral
Despite the reverence with which society views doctors, they do not know everything. There are many medical conditions with which your primary care physician is likely unfamiliar, and much he or she does not know. Ideally, doctors would refer patients to a specialist when they cannot make confident diagnoses, but if yours does not, ask for a referral. If your doctor does not give one, find a practice you trust and seek a second opinion.
Learn how to discuss your symptoms
Doctors make diagnoses based on facts and medical science. When presenting symptoms to your new doctor, try to do so in an as factual and succinct way as possible. Sometimes, doctors do not ignore symptoms but rather, get lost in the long list of a patient’s complaints. Give only the most pertinent details, and exclude those that have no bearing on a possible diagnosis.
Know what screenings to request
Know your risk factors, your medical history and your family’s medical history, and use this information to request screenings that make sense based on that information. If a doctor refuses to do a routine checkup for someone with your risk factors, it may be time to find a new physician. However, you read somewhere that your symptoms are associated with a rare disease you have no known risk factors for, respect your doctor’s decision to not order tests just yet. That does not mean, though, that you should not remain firm in your request for help in dealing with your symptoms.