By Doctor Femi Ogunyemi
In this part of the world tradition holds the patient at the mercy of their doctors decisions and instructions. I have seen even the most educated and informed patient hold back when opportunities arise for discussion with their physician. This is more cultural than geographical because these same people do exactly the same thing at doctor visits overseas.
When you are finally seated in front of your Doctor, especially men and women above the age of 45 years, this not the best time to talk current political issues or the next Premier League match. There are health related topics relevant to your age-group on matters well within your control.
Yes, we don’t mind chatting with you about Arsenal and Manchester United, and we too believe that Nigerian students have suffered from the unhealthy stare-down between ASUU and the Federal Government.
However there are some questions you should ask us that will affirm your determination to STAY HEALTHY. Ask these 5 questions below with trust and confidence.
Am I at a healthy weight?
Tell us about your diet and exercise and ask how to improve them. Hormones changes after menopause, making weight management difficult. Ask us if there are other reasons you might be gaining weight, such as diabetes or thyroid issues. “And ask what your healthy weight should be and how to get there. We may refer you to a nutritionist or fitness trainer.
Lately, I’ve lost interest in many things and feel sad. Am I depressed?
Depression affects many people. As we get older it occurs twice as much in women than men. If you have felt down, sad or hopeless, or had little interest or pleasure in doing things for the last two weeks ask your doctor to screen you for depression.
When do I need my mammogram, pap smear and colon cancer test?
Ask your doctor to tailor screenings based on your personal, medical and family history, and your values. Women over 50 should ask about mammograms, pap smears and colorectal cancer.
Discuss screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and osteoporosis also. Ask to be referred to a one-stop shop for well woman health screening. Some women, and some husbands too, are personally, traditionally and culturally more comfortable in facilities run by women for women.
I think I’ve started menopause. Any advice?
Menopause, which officially begins 12 months after your last period, increases your risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in women. And address menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep difficulties and vaginal dryness. Hormone replacement therapy may help reduce menopausal symptoms such as vaginal dryness and night sweats.
A large Study in 2002 found that women who took HRT were at increased risk for breast cancer, stroke and heart disease. But then a 2012 16-year study in Denmark found that hormone therapy begun right after a woman’s final period protects women from heart attack and heart failure. And cancer risk for women who did or did not take HRT was the same. Ask your doctor about the timing, risk and benefits.
What’s my diagnosis and my treatment options?
If you are diagnosed with a condition, don’t leave the clinic or hospital without asking how sure your doctor is of the diagnosis. If he doesn’t know, ask how to get more information. I often direct my patients to specific internet sites. A blanket advice to “look online” may lead unsuspecting patients to suspicious and incorrect medical information. According to 2012 statistics published in The American Journal of Medicine, 15 percent of medical cases in DEVELOPED countries are misdiagnosed.
Ask about the benefits and side effects of each treatment option and about alternatives, too. Ask about interactions between your medications. If the treatment is surgery or a procedure, ask why you need it and how often the doctor has done it. You want to hear “I’ve done quite a few” not “It’s a procedure I’d love to try”.
Next week, I will write about the five questions men should ask. •Dr. Femi Ogunyemi, FRCA, FWACS, is a member of the British Pain Society, American Pain Society, the North American Neuromodulation Society and the Aerospace Medical Association. He is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Pain Management and a Fellow in Pain Medicine from Emory University.