Your First Appointment with an Endometriosis Specialist
When you find the right endometriosis specialist, you need to prepare yourself for your first appointment. Medical records, journals, and an arsenal of questions for which you want answers can help your specialist properly treat you. This page will help you prepare for that first appointment with an endometriosis specialist. It will also give you a glimpse into what appointments would be like with me so that you have a standard to measure against.
You’ve done your research and have found someone who you believe is going to be the best endometriosis specialist for you. You call them, make your first appointment, and are feeling positive that you have started on the course toward healing. But you still need to be prepared going into that first appointment. This way, you and your specialist get the most out of it.
Here are a few ideas to help you prepare for that first visit. Following that, I will share with you what a patient who makes an appointment to see me can expect at our first meeting and in subsequent appointments. Not every specialist may handle an appointment in the same way I do. I am sharing my methods simply to give you a standard.
Preparing yourself for your first appointment with an endometriosis specialist
- Before seeing a specialist, it is important to gather as much information and medical history as possible. Get anything you can – diagnoses, test result, treatments – from every doctor you have seen, and bring those records to the appointment
- Hopefully, you have kept a journal of your symptoms. If you have, even if it hasn’t been for very long, bring that journal with you. It will help you remember when your symptoms happen, and it could help your doctor treat you.
- Think about other ways to describe your symptoms, concerns, and fears. Be specific. How much pain do you have on an average day, and how often? Is there a time of day that the pain is worse? Does the pain come and go? What helps alleviate the pain? How upsetting and disrupting is the pain to you? Do specific activities trigger your pain? Does pain interfere with your daily activities or personal routine?
- Go in with the mindset that you are going to ask every single question necessary to get the answers you want and need. If you are a quiet or shy person, consider bringing your mom, sister, partner, or friend with you to help. Endometriosis is not shy about what it does to you. You need to be equally aggressive in trying to stop it.
Your first appointment
The first appointment takes about an hour. I don’t initially write anything down. I simply let you speak while I listen. It’s normally an emotional meeting, a chance for you to take all the time you need to tell me about the pain, misdiagnoses, previous surgical experiences, and how your circumstance has affected your life. It is through this that we begin to build trust, something that every patient should feel towards their doctor.
I will then take some notes and ask you specific questions about everything you just told me to learn everything that I can about every one of your symptoms. How painful is your period? How old were you when the pain started? Does the pain surface before, during, and/or after your period? How heavy is the bleeding? Is it clotty? Have you taken medication for the pain? Do you have a disease you are aware of that could promote heavy bleeding? Have you had any gastrointestinal symptoms? Are you sexually active and, if so, is sex painful? Do bowel movements hurt? These are just some of the many questions I will ask.
The hour-long visit is a full hour of a face-to-face discussion, not fifteen minutes in a waiting room, fifteen minutes filling out paperwork, and thirty minutes together. You need that much time to develop trust, and I need that much time to fully understand your situation.
Your second appointment
Your second visit is when I will conduct a very thorough physical exam. I will check for tenderness in the kidney area, and I will examine your abdomen, liver, spleen, and any previous surgical incisions. A lot of those incisions will tell me a story, depending on how long they are and where they are. I will ask you several questions as I am examining you. These will be questions about pain, miscarriages, your family’s medical history, medications you are on, etc.
I will then conduct a gynecological exam with a female assistant in the room. I will tell you everything that I’m doing as I’m doing it and why so that you are as comfortable and informed as possible. This exam will include me examining your cervix with my finger, moving from right to left and from front to back. This is called a bimanual pelvic examination.
Next, I will ask your permission to do a rectal exam. As I examine the rectum, I will feel any nodules in the side walls. I will then do a transvaginal sonogram, which will show me your ovaries and your uterine cavity so that I can look for polyps and fibroids that are inside the endometrial cavity, which are the cause of heavy bleeding and clots. Then I will view your uterine muscle walls for the presence of adenomyosis and fibroids, and finally your ovaries for any cysts, endometrioma, and adhesions.
When we return to my office, I will explain to you where I think the endometriosis is located, how serious it is, and what needs to be done about it. I will even draw sketches on a board to help you visualize.
If you are going to opt to have surgery with me, I will send you for an MRI to further evaluate the tissues and look at the kidney system, and a CT scan to make sure I’ve covered every point in your body that I need to. I will also give you the option of consulting with a psychologist because the pain that this disease causes affects patients psychologically.
The last thing I will do is ask you to meet with other specialists on my team who may also be involved in the surgery so that we are totally prepared going into the operating room with top-level expertise in every respect.
When all is said and done, you will have at least three or four visits with me before surgery. It is my goal to build a relationship with you. This isn’t about getting you in and getting you out. If any doctor treats you that way, you just need to get out. Whether you are going to see your doctor about a minor ache or a major issue, you always deserve the best treatment.
On the “How To Decide For The Right Endometriosis Specialist?” page, you met Melissa. That specialist who she went to in Georgia treated her well, but about a year after one of his surgeries, the aggressive endometriosis she had returned again. She chose to go to a doctor closer to her home in Michigan because she couldn’t afford to go back to Georgia again. He told her he could help her.
When she woke up after surgery, he said, “I couldn’t do anything,” Melissa said. And he wasn’t kidding.
“He opened me, took one glance inside, and closed me. I was in the operating room for like twenty minutes.”
The endometriosis was so widespread that he didn’t feel comfortable attempting to tackle it. That should never, ever, happen to you or any other person.
As you learn more about endometriosis, its symptoms, and the treatments available, you will be able to advocate for yourself and get the care you deserve. So many patients are told by people who aren’t specialists (friends, relatives, school nurses, and even other doctors) that they are overreacting, that there is something wrong that really isn’t wrong, or that the pain is just a woman’s burden.
You know your body better than anyone. Do the research and rad stories from other women with the disease to make the best assessment of your situation that you can. Then find the best person who can help you end the pain you are in. You deserve it.