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What women don't tell their doctors, but should

It may be just a little ache or a slight change in how you're feeling, but ignoring it doesn't make it go away  — and discussing it with your doctor can save your life. Dr. Holly Phillips from Lenox Hill Hospital offers advice to women for their next doctor's visit.Alternative medicationsDoctors not only need to know what prescribed medications you're taking, but any alternative or herbal suppl
/ Source: TODAY

It may be just a little ache or a slight change in how you're feeling, but ignoring it doesn't make it go away  — and discussing it with your doctor can save your life. Dr. Holly Phillips from Lenox Hill Hospital offers advice to women for their next doctor's visit.

Alternative medications

Doctors not only need to know what prescribed medications you're taking, but any alternative or herbal supplements and medications you may be using. These herbals can produce erroneous lab results, raise certain levels, and interfere with your prescribed meds. So it's really something you may not think much about, but it's something you need to talk to your doctor about. As a matter of fact, you need to tell the doctor about any drugs you are taking, even those that are not prescribed specifically for you, or illicit drugs.

Family history

You must tell your doctor if more than one relative has had a particular type of disease. Breast cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are illnesses most people know to mention, but other important diseases to note are thyroid disorders, colon, ovarian or uterine cancers. This way the doctor will have a bit of a guide as to what may be your major risks and what to test for.

Planning pregnancy

It's not just after the fact that your doctor needs to be aware of this, but even if you are planning it in the coming year. The doctor can prepare you to have a healthy pregnancy way before the fact. If you're low on folic acid, your baby is at risk for neural tube defects like spinal bifida. While folic acid is now added to cereals and other foods and is common in those mega vitamins you take during pregnancy, it should be building up in your body prior to pregnancy. Sharing your plans with your doctor can help you find easily treatable causes of infertility, like thyroid disorders, and whether you need to lose or gain weight for a healthy pregnancy.

Sunning habits and any changes in moles

You also need to tell your doctor how much time you spend in the sun, and if you use tanning beds. Indoor tanning is as dangerous as tanning in the sun. Tanning beds are dangerous because they emit as much ultraviolet light as the sun, and you have the same risk for skin cancer. As a matter of fact, Scandinavian researchers found that people who use tanning beds raise their risk of skin cancer by 5 percent.

Smoking and drinking habits

Women may not think they are at risk for lung cancer, but their risk of death from this disease is significant, and kills more women than breast cancer. Also, drinking impacts overall health.

Joint stiffness

It can be nothing more than you overdid it at the gym, but it can also be lyme disease, autoimmune problems, a low-grade virus, or arthritis. The doctor will ask you about other symptoms besides the joint pain to determine the necessary tests. It's lyme disease season, so be sure to report the pain if you are feeling it now.

Shortness of breath

An important symptom, and it may not be because you took the stairs too fast. It can indicate heart disease, asthma or bronchitis and, less likely but still possible, lung cancer. 

Waking up at night

Stress, sleep disorders, urinary tract infections, sleep apnea and other ailments may be causing you to wake up frequently. It's also a sign of diabetes, which many people don't know.

Painful sex

Pain during sex is one of the concerns that women don't think means much, or are too embarrassed to talk about. Where it hurts is important because it can be caused by fibroids, which are usually benign, or pelvic inflammatory disease, or if it is closer to the entrance, it can be a yeast infection or inadequate lubrication.

Bottom line: Any important change in how you feel, even if it's a pain that is bearable, can be significant. Your doctor will ask you about any changes you may have noticed. Don't be embarrassed. Tell your doctor everything — there is nothing your doctor hasn't heard before. Let us know if you feel awkward and we can help you through it.