If you’re considering surgery, your GP or specialist can be the best sources of trusted information. They have the experience and knowledge to help you understand your options, the costs, and treatment plans available.
But time with them can often be limited. So, what are the best five questions to ask during your appointment?
Don’t feel embarrassed asking your doctor whether you actually need the treatment, test or procedure they are suggesting. It is unlikely they would be recommending a course of action they didn’t think would be beneficial, but asking this question can help you to understand what the doctor is looking to achieve. It may be that you have been booked in for some tests to determine the diagnosis for a medical condition. Or, you may have been prescribed some medicines which will help to alleviate symptoms. Whatever the case, asking your doctor this simple question can help to clarify the direction you are both hoping to move in.
If your doctor recommends a particular course of action, then the next thing you need to query is whether there are any risks involved. Many procedures, medicines and treatments do involve some risks and side effects. Talking through these concerns can help you to understand what to expect and will help you determine whether the negative effects are acceptable to the overall outcome.
If there are risks involved in your recommended course of treatment that you are uncomfortable with, you might be keen to find an alternative option. Ideally, your doctor will have tried less invasive treatment before turning to more complex solutions such as surgery, but it could be that they are offering you the most straightforward, most effective, or common course of action.
Alternative options might include lifestyle changes such as healthier eating, increasing exercise, reducing alcohol or stress, or quitting smoking. Changing medication may also be an option. If you are considering these alternatives, your doctor will want to see that you are motivated to make these changes.
When weighing up your options, it’s good to find out from your doctor what will happen if you don’t do anything, or what will happen if you delay treatment. For example, do you have the option of making some lifestyle changes over the next six months, or will delaying treatment complicate issues in the future?
Financial, emotional and social costs are all things to be aware of before booking medical treatment, tests or procedures.
As a starting point, many medical treatments and procedures can be expensive, so it is a good idea to ask about these fees upfront. Your doctor should also be able to give you a rundown of the time commitment you are looking at, and whether you will need assistance from family and friends over the course of your treatment.
High emotional costs may also be expected, so ask your doctor for details on how patients normally react emotionally, and whether there are things you can do, or be aware of, to manage stress and emotional concerns.
Remember, forewarned is forearmed, so find out as much information as early as you can. There are no stupid questions, and it is beneficial to everyone to when you are comfortable and confident in going forward with your treatment.