5 questions to ask your doctor before any test or treatment

The cold winter months usually see us spending more time in doctors' offices. Whether you're getting a flu shot or checking on a lingering cough, the more information you have the better decisions you can make about your healthcare. Here are five questions you should ask your healthcare practitioner before any test or treatment.

1. Do I actually need this test or treatment? Tests are used as diagnostic tools to help you doctor determine the best course of treatment, but in many cases they can use less invasive criteria to make a recommendation. Similarly, certain treatments are elective, so it's good to know if something is necessary or optional.

2. Have physiological differences been taken into account? Diseases, treatments and chemicals affect men and women differently, with most drug trials and medical research focusing only on the male body while not considering the differences that are unique to women and their health. This is why you likely need to remind your doctor to account for gender differences when prescribing a test or treatment.

“Many healthcare practitioners are not aware of the gender bias in clinical studies and the implications for women's health," explains Karen Jensen, a naturopathic doctor whose new book, Women's Health Matters: The Influence of Gender on Disease, explores this issue in detail. “As a result, it becomes a bottom-up situation, requiring the public, and women in particular to educate themselves.”

3. What are the risks and potential side effects? Understanding the risks of a specific test or treatment can give you a clearer picture of possible advantages and drawbacks, while knowing the side effects lets you know what's normal, what's to be expected and what requires reaching out to your doctor.

4. Are there alternatives? This gives you a chance to learn about newer test or treatment options that may offer comparable results, as well as find out if lifestyle changes or alternative therapies can help.

5. What are the costs? It's important to know if your doctor's recommendations are covered by your provincial healthcare plan, and if not, what percentage you can expect your insurance to reimburse. You also need to know what time and emotional costs may apply; for example, if a test requires taking a whole day off work. 

Find more information online at wvmagonline.com.