If you have lung or abdominal symptoms, you're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in lung diseases (pulmonologist) or abdominal problems (gastroenterologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking or that you've taken recently.
- Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
- Gather any medical records, such as past chest X-rays, that relate to your condition.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For mesothelioma, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- What are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Can I see my chest X-ray?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What is the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
- What will determine whether I should plan for a follow-up visit?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Does it hurt to take a deep breath?
- Do your symptoms affect your ability to work?
- Have you ever worked with asbestos?
What you can do in the meantime
Try to avoid anything that worsens your signs and symptoms. For instance, if you're experiencing shortness of breath, try to take it easy until you can meet with your doctor. If your breathlessness becomes distressing or uncomfortable, seek immediate medical attention.
Oct. 24, 2012
- Malignant pleural mesothelioma. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Aug, 30, 2012.
- Abeloff MD, et al. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-4/0/1709/0.html. Accessed Aug. 30, 2012.
- Mason RJ, et al. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/192068760-2/0/1288/0.html. Accessed Aug. 30, 2012.
- Chekol SS, et al. Malignant mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis: Diagnostic studies and differential diagnosis. Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. 2012;136:113.
- Mirarabshahii P, et al. Diffuse malignant peritoneal mesothelioma: An update on treatment. Cancer Treatment Reviews. 2012;38:605.
- Kamal AH, et al. Dyspnea review for the palliative care professional: Treatment goals and therapeutic options. Palliative Care Review. 2012;15:106.
- Malignant mesothelioma treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malignantmesothelioma/patient. Accessed Aug. 30, 2012.
- Frequently asked questions about cancer, simian virus 40 (SV40) and polio vaccine. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/updates/archive/polio_and_cancer.htm. Accessed Aug. 30, 2012.
- Rosenow EC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 11, 2012.
- OSHA Fact Sheet: Asbestos. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/hazards.html. Accessed Aug. 30, 2012.
- Asbestos: Basic information. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/help.html. Accessed Aug. 30, 2012.