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I feel like my doctor is not listening to me and brushes off my symptoms. Help!

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Updated March 11, 2010

Question: I feel like my doctor is not listening to me and brushes off my symptoms. Help!
I have been experiencing constipation, bloating, and pelvic cramping for about six months. My doctor keeps telling me to add fiber to my diet and exercise at my appointments. I read that these can be early symptoms of a few different cancers. I feel like she is not listening to me. I am scared I have cancer and a delay in being diagnosed will make it too late for treatment. What do I do?
Answer: First, I would like to give kudos to you for being proactive in your healthcare. You would be surprised at how many people don't ask questions when they should or seek outside advice when needed. An important part of receiving quality healthcare is having good communication with your doctor. When you can openly communicate with your doctor and have your concerns sufficiently addressed, then you know know you have an ideal doctor-patient relationship.

Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. A doctor-patient relationship is like any other relationship -- sometimes the chemistry just isn't there. You have to make sure that you are doing your part to effectively communicating your needs to your doctor, though. You can do this by asking a lot of the right questions and by also by immediately expressing your concerns. Here is an example of effectively communicating your concerns to your doctor:

"Dr. Jones, I read that the symptoms I have are symptoms of cancer. I am worried that it is cancer and that my diagnosis is being delayed. Can you please tell me why you believe I do not have cancer? What makes you believe that I am only constipated?"

One mistake that many patients make is that they don't immediately discuss what they suspect is causing their symptoms -- they wait and see if the doctor does first. When symptoms are very general like bloating and cramping, it can it is usually because of something much less serious than cancer. For many reasons (personal health history, being low-risk, etc), cancer may not even be on your doctor's mind concerning your symptoms. However, if you immediate express to your doctor that you think you have cancer, she will address those concerns. (More Ways to Communicate With Your Doctor)

You may ask "What if she doesn't?". Ideally and most of the time, your doctor will respond with a thorough answer. If you do not understand any of the medical terms she uses, ask what they mean. Too many patients walk away not understanding their doctors because they aren't comfortable asking questions. If you do not agree with your doctor or still feel like she isn't meeting your needs, then perhaps it is time to get a second opinion or find a new doctor.

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