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What should I do to prepare for my upcoming doctor's appointment?
When you want to make the most of your doctor’s visit, as a woman, I think it’s always important to bring in any list of questions or concerns that you have. It’s often easy during an appointment to often forget about what were the most important things that you were concerned about. Certainly, if there is something that you wanted to look up and bring off the Internet — although, some of these sites are questionable — you can certainly bring those in and it’s often good to have a reality check with your physician when looking at some of this information that you bring in anyway.
What should I expect during my doctor's visit?
I often say that a woman during a physical exam for it to be complete should be a good general exam, which includes a gynecologic exam such as a breast and pelvic exam. Also, between the ages of 9 and 26, we have also the Gardasil vaccine now available to prevent HPV infections that could potentially cause cervical cancer. And if you’ve had an HPV infection, I still think it is important to get a Gardasil vaccine as when we do the test, to screen for this, you often don’t know which type of HPV virus you have.
When should I get my annual exam?
I often recommend that annual physical exam checks be done when they are appropriate to be done. Fortunately, a lot of these tests should be done less frequently. However, this is not the case necessarily with breast exams and mammograms, especially with hormonal therapy (i.e., birth control). Those should probably still be done annually at this point in time and especially if there is a strong family history of breast cancer.
What should I bring with me to my appointment?
One should always bring their own list of medications and make sure that it is as complete as possible. Bringing more information always helps your physician do their job more completely and it’s easier for us to help you when you bring as much of that information in as possible. If you don’t know what is your immunization history is, and this often happens especially let’s say with military family or families that will relocate often. It’s always a good idea to perhaps find or try to locate your former physician who may have those records.
What questions should I be prepared to ask my physician?
Questions I think one should always ask is, “Are there any areas that I should improve on (i.e., weight, fitness, cholesterol levels) and how to best achieve those goals.” I certainly advocate lifestyle changes first before medications, obviously. And remember as a family physician, we’re not only just a physician but we’re also a life coach as it were and when we’re offering you advice, we’re not trying to scold you. We’re trying to motivate you. If we can motivate you into a healthier lifestyle, it would benefit you quite a bit more than just coming in when there are problems and hopefully you’ll have a much healthier, happier life — with fewer visits to me probably.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's women's health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego OBGYN or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about women's health, visit Women's Health in Adult Health or read the Women's Health News archive.