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The Incredible Shrinking Doctor's Appointment

Before You Leave

To save yourself a follow-up call later, ask for clarification on anything that still seems unclear and be sure you fully understand the doctor's advice, including whether you should be looking out for any symptoms and whether you need to call the office for test results. If the information you've been given seems confusing, ask if the office has a handout you can read at home or if your doctor can point you to a reputable Internet resource. If you're still fuzzy on anything—but your doctor has moved on to the next patient—ask to speak with a nurse or medical assistant.

And most important, avoid asking what doctors call the dreaded "doorknob question" at the end of your appointment. "People often wait until the doctor is halfway out the door before they bring up the most pressing thing on their minds," says Dr. Korsch. Usually, it's something patients are embarrassed to bring up at the start (incontinence and sexual dysfunction top the list). Trouble is, you're not likely to get much quality time to discuss it. Instead, put this question at the top of your agenda. "These are things doctors treat day in and day out," says Dr. King. "So there's no reason to be embarrassed."

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