What to Ask an Endometriosis Specialist
There are a multitude of questions that you need answers to before you decide which endometriosis specialist is best for you. They range from the most simplistic, such as “Do you specialize in the treatment of endometriosis,” to more complicated ones like “Can you please explain your surgical procedure?” As overwhelming as it may be to find all of the answers you deserve, it is essential that you don’t “settle” on just anyone. Every person’s body and symptoms are different. Find the endometriosis specialist who is best for you.
On the page titled “Qualifications of an Endometriosis Specialist,” I suggested that the first question you ask before making an appointment with an endometriosis specialist is, “Do you do a full vaginal/rectal exam?” If the answer is no, then you need to find another specialist.
But that, along with the four other points, are just some of the many questions that you should ask and find answers for to find the right specialist.
The following is a guideline of questions to ask in your search. Some are questions that you can find answers to through online research or by asking other patients. There are also questions that you will likely have to ask the specialist directly. If you make an appointment and speak directly with a specialist, that does not oblige you to stay with that specialist if you do not like some of the answers you receive. Make sure you are putting your health into the hands of someone you completely trust.
Does the doctor specialize in the treatment of endometriosis?
This is an obvious question, but the answer cannot be assumed. Many people think that every gynecologist is a specialist. Every endometriosis specialist is a gynecologist, but not every gynecologist is an endometriosis specialist.
What percentage of their patients are young?
This is something you will want to ask if you are a young person yourself. The way to treat a patient in their thirties may be different than treating someone in high school.
Does the doctor have experience with related conditions?
This could mean irritable bowel syndrome, bladder or kidney issues, or appendicitis, to name a few. The more they know about these conditions that have symptoms similar to endometriosis, the better chance you have of not being misdiagnosed.
What is the doctor’s attitude about your role in your health care?
Are they willing to receive input from you? You need to be able to trust your specialist. They are the expert for a reason. But nobody knows your body as you do. Your past experiences or even your intuition will tell you whether or not something is right for you. You should be part of this team and effort to get well. Your input should matter.
Do they allow ample time for thorough conversation and examination, or do they rush?
You should not be treated like a number. Your specialist should spend ample time with you during your examination(s), and in their office going over everything in detail so that you clearly understand what is happening to your body and what course of treatment is necessary. You should be able to ask and have answers to every single question you like.
Are they able to explain surgical procedures and treatment options clearly?
Some doctors struggle to detail surgical procedures to patients. That is unacceptable. You must be able to understand what treatment they will pursue. Keep asking them to explain the details as thoroughly and clearly as possible.
What is the doctor’s belief on different hormone therapies?
Birth control can be an effective way to ease the pain of endometriosis. Would your doctor prescribe that if it is what is best for you, or would they or the hospital they work in refuse to do so? Or, if they want to prescribe you narcotics (which I am against), will they explain to you why? Don’t just accept a certain treatment. Know the reasons behind why your doctor prescribes or doesn’t prescribe a certain medication.
What does your intuition say?
Without that trust, that relationship, you will struggle to get well. Trust what your gut tells you. If you aren’t comfortable with a certain specialist, find a different one.
Does the doctor work cooperatively with other specialists who have a history of caring for endometriosis patients (ex. GI doctors, pediatric gynecologists, psychotherapists, etc.)? Your endometriosis specialist should be part of a team of doctors who will be helping you. One thing I offer my patients is access to a therapist. And when I’m in surgery, I have a team of experts in various areas (bowel, kidney, etc.) assisting me. It is going to take your specialist and their team’s effort for you to get well.
Questions to ask once you decided to go ahead with the surgery
If you and your specialist have decided that surgery is the best option, there are a host of other questions you should ask to help you determine if this specialist is the right person to be performing your surgery:
- How do they plan to use surgery to treat endometriosis? Do they specialize in laparoscopy? How will they remove the endometriosis? Will they excise (cut out) the endometriosis tissue or burn it out with a laser?
- Will they document your surgery with images?
- How clearly are they able to explain the procedure? What exactly will they do during surgery? For example, will they remove the endometriosis? Or, will it be an exploratory (look-only) surgery? If so, why?
- Is the doctor affiliated with a hospital that regularly treats endometriosis? Do they have a “team” of surgeons to address different elements of surgical treatment? Will your doctor have other surgeons (general, colorectal, etc.) present in the operating room with them?
- What can you expect after the surgery? How much pain will you be in? How can you lessen the pain? What are post-op restrictions for going back to school, doing activities, and returning to your normal routine?
- Do they have a pre-op and post-op routine to assist in your healing process?
I highly encourage taking the time to consider each of these questions. And if you need support, don’t be wary of leaning on a mother, daughter, spouse, partner, or friend who can help you find answers to relieve you of some of the burdens. Too many times I’ve had patients who settled for someone who didn’t have the necessary expertise to make them well, and they regretted it. Take the time now, not after multiple surgeries or misdiagnoses, to get the answers you deserve.