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What You Need To Know About Your Health Condition

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Learning about your health condition is essential to being an informed patient. The more you know, the better able you are to make informed decisions. (On the other hand, if you prefer to leave your medical care and decisions to your doctor(s), that is a perfectly valid choice as well.)

Becoming informed doesn't mean you have to become an expert with knowledge equal to a doctor's. That's his or her contribution to the decision-making process. You only need to become an informed consumer.

It is suggested that you at least learn:

  • What your condition is -- specifically in addition to generally.
  • The medical terms you're likely to hear.
  • The treatments.
  • The markers to look for to understand your progress.

The best source of information is your doctor. However, as you know, your doctor will only have limited time, with a lot of ground to cover.

Information is readily available through reputable web sites as well as journals and books.

If you don't want to do the research, you can hire professionals to do it for you.

Reasons to learn about your health condition:

Supplementing what your doctor tells you with your own research will help you:

  • Learn about all the latest treatments. Your doctor may be too busy taking care of people to be up on all the latest treatments, or she may be restricted from talking about some of them by an insurance provider or her partners, or she may be biased toward a treatment she knows well and is used to.
  • Learn the medical terms for your condition so you can use those terms when you speak with your doctors. Using medical terms will:
    • Make the conversation more precise.
    • Save precious time with your doctor.
    • Help doctors relate to you more as an equal which should make it easier for them to accept that you are the decision maker.
  • Know what markers to look for and what they mean. The progress of a battle against a health condition is measured by different markers, depending on the condition. Unless you know what the markers are and what they mean, you can't gauge how well y you are doing and whether changes in your response to the condition should be changed.
  • Learn about the reality of potential "Side Effects" to watch for. Side effects can sometimes be more difficult than the original condition, and may be downplayed in conversation with a doctor.
  • Learn whether your condition is transmittable - and if so, how. If you have a condition which is communicable to other people, you can't take steps to prevent giving it to someone else unless you know how it is communicated. In some situations, knowingly infecting another person can subject you to criminal penalties as well as civil.

Precautions to keep in mind when learning about  your medical condition:

  • Don't try to learn everything at once. Start with the information that relates to what is going on now.
  • Misinformation can be deadly - particularly information on the internet. When searching for information on the internet, check to see if the creator of the site has a financial interest in the information it provides. If a study is cited, was it conducted by a disinterested person or group? 
  • Don't be overwhelmed by "what could happen."  Research inevitably brings up horrors - even if it happens to one person in a million. Just because things happen, doesn't mean they will happen to you. For example, a person with a rare cancer who is treated at a major comprehensive cancer center is likely to do better than a person treated by a non-specialist in a clinic in a rural area.
  • Speak with your doctor about your fears, and ask for a perspective of how often the things happen about which you're concerned.
  • If you have questions about how the information you find relates to you, ask your health professional.  Ask: your doctor, a nurse, another doctor, or a knowledgeable person at the insurance company. If you are in the hospital, you can ask the patient representative.

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