Working with Medical and
Your relationship with your doctors and other professionals will be the most important factor in your ability to learn about your diagnosis and treatments.
Approach your research as the basis for asking questions of your physician(s). Regardless of what your research yields, you must have a professional who can confirm your findings or instead explain why those findings are irrelevant to you.
Finding a Physician-Partner
Regardless of how well you like your doctor, you won't be able to help yourself if that doctor is unwilling to patiently answer your questions. There may be many pressures on your doctor; insurance requirements, too many patients on the schedule, or sometimes personalities just won't allow for respectfully working with you.
So among your most important first steps is to establish which physician you want to work with. Interview him or her to see how willingly they will take the time needed to help you understand your findings and provide follow up articles and publications. Even when they refer you to other specialists, you should choose one primary doctor to help you through the maze of options.
Once you have established this good doctor/patient relationship, you'll find your task will be easier and you'll have more confidence to move forward.
Many people are wary of asking questions of their physicians, as if doctors should be able to read their minds and answer questions that have not been asked. Get over it!
Attend each appointment armed with your research and questions. If you use the charts we've provided here, it will be clear where your questions came from so you can cite the information that led you to ask the question.
If your doctor doesn't know the answer, but is willing to research with you further, then you've found a gem. Hang on to that doctor! Together the two of you will find the best answers for you.
Getting a Second Opinion
If your diagnosis produces a suggested treatment which would consist of surgery, difficult drugs or other difficult treatments, then it is imperative you seek a second opinion. Will you be insulting your doctor by suggesting s/he hasn't done their job well? No! If s/he is a good doctor, s/he will welcome confirmation of your diagnosis or treatment options by another professional.
Tell your doctor you want to seek another opinion to confirm his/her findings. If your doctor tries to discourage you from seeking a second opinion -- then get another doctor right away. Unless there is some extenuating circumstance
(like an emergency situation) there can be no good reason for discouraging you from getting a second opinion.
How Reputable is That Doctor?
No doctor can possibly know everything about every disease or condition, nor can s/he possibly be right about diagnoses and treatments 100% of the time. That's what you will want to continue probing and asking questions until the answers make sense.
However, sadly, some doctors are not as knowledgeable as they should be, and some do not stay current with research, drugs and other treatments. There are resources for probing into the quality of the physicians you may choose or be referred to. If you are curious about the ability of your doctors to help you, you may want to check these resources.
Non-Physician Health-Related Professionals
Some of the best and most effective research you can do will be to learn from health professionals who do not necessarily have a medical degree.
By networking with relatives, friends, other patients, co-workers or anyone who has any knowledge about fighting your condition or disease, you will be able to uncover the names of non-physician medical professionals who may be able to help you. They may provide alternative treatments, natural remedies, or other ideas to help you.
A caveat: Without a degree or credential of some sort, it will be difficult to know what kind of help these people can provide to you. Ask plenty of questions to assure yourself the person has the qualifications necessary.
And don't forget other professionals: psychologists, pharmacists, social workers and others. If they can't answer your questions, they may know of someone who can.
This website does not address insurance questions -- it would be impossible for us to be able to advise you. What we do suggest is that you gain a good understanding of your coverage, and that prior to visits with specialists, tests, or hospital visits, you double check with them to learn whether you must get approval ahead of time.