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:: This column was originally posted on Endometriosis News ::

Doctors appointments are few and far between at times - even though we might feel like we spend our lives at the doctors office! A mixture of brain fog and a sudden bombardment of information might mean we leave without the feeling of accomplishment we had hoped for.

To help you make the most of the short time you are with your doctor, here are 5 ways in which you can prepare for an appointment.

1. Keep a diary or notes of your pain and symptoms
Keeping a pain diary is a really useful way of tracking your symptoms. It’s also a great way to show your doctor how your pain differs throughout the month and if it correlates with anything i.e. exertion, diet or your period. This can be especially helpful when you have symptoms that you’re not sure have anything to do with your endometriosis. For example, shoulder pain (which could indicate diaphragmatic endometriosis) isn’t something you would usually think of in relation to endometriosis because of its distance from the abdomen where the majority of endometriosis symptoms occur. However, if it correlates with your period, then there is a good chance that it might be related to your endometriosis. You can keep some simple notes, keep a diary specifically for your health or track your pain using a specialised app on your phone.

2. Plan what you want to discuss
I always find that doctors appointments can be a bit rushed and everything you had planned to speak about just goes straight out the door. The best way to get around this is to plan what you want to speak about. Try writing your points down. It doesn’t need to be an essay - just a few bullet points that you can glance at quickly. There is nothing worse than leaving an appointment and then remembering something you should have spoken about!

3. Take any medication with you
Doctors will always ask what medication you are currently on. This is to check if it’s the best option for you or to see if it can be combined with new treatment options. It’s best to take all of your medication with you, but you could also write the names and dosages of the medication down.

4. Take any recent hospital notes or letters with you
Doctors should have all of your (relevant) medical history to hand in a file at your appointment. However, I’ve attended appointments where my last set of notes haven’t been put in to my file and then both me and the doctor have had to try to recall exactly what was spoken about. I now take any medical notes with me so I have all the information to hand should I need it.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Doctors will give you a lot of information in a very short space of time. If there is anything you don’t understand, ask questions while you are there. What’s the plan for the future with regards to treatments or further surgeries? What side effects will a treatment cause? Will this treatment interfere with any other health conditions you might have? Ask questions about fertility if that is on your mind. The main thing to remember is to not feel afraid or embarrassed to ask. Your doctor is there to help you, so please don’t leave their office confused.

You can follow my Endometriosis News column here.