Don't delay! Five questions to ask your GP now

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Your health depends on you taking the lead...

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Nobody enjoys going to the doctor (not even the well-thumbed copies of Chat! in the waiting room can cheer us up), but a well-planned trip and some sensible questions could help you maximise your health.

You don't need to be unwell to go - just make an appointment and go armed with the questions you want your doctor to answer. Like everything, it's better to be proactive and preemptive than worried and waiting - and the five issues below will give the doctor a good overall picture of your health.

The pill contraceptive

Are you on the right type of contraception?

1. Am I using the right birth control?

There are 15 types of contraception available through the NHS, but don't assume that the doctor will present you with all the options during your appointment. Doctors are busy, or they may show preference for certain products. Others may expect that you've done your own research and won't be relying on them for information.

Before you visit the doctor, write down all of your questions. These might be about the contraception you're already using (perhaps you read something that's making you a bit uneasy), or about a new method (does the contraceptive injection cause weight gain?) Don't be embarrassed, and do go back for another appointment if you're unhappy.

2. Does this mole look normal to you?

Changes to a mole may be an early indication of a type of skin cancer called melanoma. Melanoma is one of the most common forms of cancer in young British women - but it also has a very high rate of successful treatment.

Your doctor won't be as intimately acquainted with your body as you are, which is why it's important for you to be aware of any changes in the size and shape of your moles. Try to think, when did you first notice this mole? Have you always had it, or is it new? Have you noticed any changes in its colour or shape? Have you had other moles surgically removed in the past? Do you have a family history of atypical moles or melanoma?

Naked woman hiding her breasts

Are my breasts normal?

3. Should I be worried about my breast?

Breast cancer charities no longer recommend that all women routinely perform monthly breast self-exams. Instead, they emphasise being 'breast aware', which means knowing how your breasts look and feel, and being on the lookout for any unusual changes.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer says that most cases of breast cancer are found by women noticing unusual changes, taking the initiative and visiting their doctor. Tell your doctor if you can feel lumps or lumpiness, unusual pain, a change in skin texture or colour, a change in the appearance of your nipples, a rash or discharge.

4. Why am I tired all the time?

Many of us have days or weeks where we feel tired. Often, it's a common result of stress, overwork, lack of exercise and poor diet. But it can also result from medical problems such as anaemia, diabetes, depression and immune disorders - so see your doctor for a check-up.

Tell them about any habits you have that might be robbing you of energy, including staying up late, having too much caffeine, drinking too much alcohol or eating a lot of junk food. Also think about any other symptoms you may have, including sore joints, headaches or dizziness - your doctor will need to look at the bigger picture, so don't leave anything out.

Sad woman

Anxious and down? It might be time to talk to someone

5. Am I depressed?

Depression in women is very common. In fact, women are twice as likely to develop clinical depression as men. Up to one in four women is likely to have an episode of major depression at some point in life. Some experts believe that the increased chance of depression in women may be related to changes in hormone levels that occur throughout a woman's life - and during your monthly menstrual cycle.

Ask your doctor if you are feeling persistently sad or anxious, restless or irritable, or hopeless. Tell your doctor if you've lost interest in activities you used to enjoy, if your sleep patterns and appetite have drastically changed, or you're having thoughts of death or suicide - these can all be symptoms of depression.



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