Many cancer patients have questions that they want to ask their doctor but end up walking out without any answers. In this post, Dr. Serena H Chen, Director of Reproductive Medicine at IRMS at Saint Barnabas lists the top questions she wishes her patients would ask her.
After more than twenty years of taking care of patients as a reproductive endocrinologist & infertility doctor, I have realized that my patients often do not ask me the questions that are really on their minds. Of course, I try to tease that out when I meet with you at IRMS at Saint Barnabas
and make sure I address the most common questions that patients in your situation ask.
But still, many patients walk out the door with unanswered questions. Wouldn't you feel better if I just addressed ALL your questions? This is what I'm here for, please just ask! No matter what type of doctor you are seeing or for what type of issue, please consider these five questions I really wish my patients would ask...
1. Ask Me The Questions You're Really Thinking About.
No question is off limits or is something that I haven't been asked before. If you think that freezing your eggs may delay your cancer treatment, then ask me: "Dr Chen, do I really need to delay my cancer treatment for weeks in order to freeze my eggs?" (No, new technology allows us to start the process immediately. Timing is no longer dependent upon the menstrual cycle).
2.Ask Me Any & Every Crazy Question Your Family Has Asked You.
If you think that you are not having sex at the right time to conceive, then ask me: "Dr Chen, when is the best time to have sex in order to have the best chance to conceive a baby?" (Sorry guys, but no, you don't need to have sex twice a day, every day, in order to have a baby).
If you are worried that freezing your eggs will result in early onset menopause, tell me: "Dr Chen, I really don't want to go through menopause yet." (and I'll tell you that is one of the many myths of egg freezing. You may experience PMS, but you will not go through early menopause.)
You've made the really big, and somewhat scary, decision to come see me for help conceiving or to consider freezing your eggs or because you think your hormones may be out of whack, or because you might need surgery.
Don't undermine your confidence and resolve by failing to get all the questions hanging in the air answered, including your loved one's questions. It is hard enough to proceed with treatment without having others questioning your decisions.
3. Ask Me What You Can & Should Do To Make Your Treatment Go As Well As It Can
For goodness sake, instead of pulling your hair out every time your mom asks if your man's bike shorts are too tight, just ask! I'll give you the best answers out there. If that's not good enough, drag your mom in so I can meet her.
If she likes and trusts me too, your life will be much easier, and couldn't you use all the support you can get right now? (No, his bike shorts are not too tight, his sperm will not be affected by tight clothing, and I'm glad he's exercising).
Your general health has a huge impact upon your reproductive health. My job is to help you conceive a healthy baby or to help you freeze the best eggs etc. The healthier you are, the easier it is to help you reach your goal.
4. Ask Me Why I Am Recommending This Particular Treatment / Course of Action For You.
I will never forget the 5 foot 2 inch tall, 300+ pound woman who looked me straight in the eye and said "But nothing is wrong with me! I don't understand why I can't conceive!" And this was after considerable counseling from me about healthy weight loss.
You know these things. Many of you don't ask, perhaps because you don't want to hear the answers. Yes, diet soda is bad for you. Yes, smoking kills your eggs and sperm. Yes, you should be getting regular exercise.
Your enthusiastic participation in becoming as healthy as you can be will go a long way to improving your chances of success and will dramatically lower complication rates whether you are trying to conceive or having surgery. (Yes, you really do need to stop all that whiskey drinking in the hot tub).
I want you to understand where I'm coming from. I want you to know what I think and what the pros and cons are. I want you to be informed. I want you on board with your treatment, both heart and mind.
5. Ask Me For A Recommendation For A Therapist That Can Help You With Stress Management
You can only do that if you understand why I'm making the recommendations I make. You may have come in with some preconceived notions and ideas and it can be difficult to let go of these. Even if you completely agree with my recommendations, I still feel that your treatment will go a lot more smoothly and your stress levels will be a lot less if you understand the process as well as you can.
You will be living with the consequences of these decisions for the rest of your life. Your active participation and understanding will prevent regrets later. (Yes, a baby can be exhausting. No, you cannot return the baby).
Yes! I'm serious! See the therapist! No I don't think you are crazy, but I do know that you are in my office at IRMS for a reason and that reason causes a tremendous amount of stress no matter how grounded and well-adjusted you are.
We have many studies demonstrating that while stress does not cause infertility, infertility causes huge amounts of stress. Really awful stress. Pathologic stress. Stress that leads to clinical depression and anxiety disorders. Stress that leads to marital issues, even divorce. Stress that affects parents even after a healthy baby is born. We don't want to make healthy babies while making our patients mentally unhealthy.
Counseling patients on stress management really works. We have the data to prove it. No, we're not taking about lying on a couch for years analyzing how your mother toilet trained you. We're talking healthy stress management strategies because medical treatment is very stressful and the better you handle the stress the more successful your treatment will be. Yes! There is data! Lots if it! Please consider. Please. (It's ok if you are a little bit crazy, I'll still take good care of you. :-))
OK. Enough yakking. Back to work making babies and freezing eggs. I can't wait to hear what you think of my suggestions. Have any questions you were too nervous to ask your Reproductive Endocrinologist or any other doctor? Leave them in the comments below. I really want to hear from you – please write!
This post was brought to you in partnership with IRMS at Saint Barnabas. What type of questions are on your mind that you haven't asked your doctor? Ask them in the comments below.