NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Caring for Adolescents and Young Adults - page 14

NCCN Guidelines for Patients
: Caring for Adolescents and Young Adults
Version 2013
Part 2: Dealing with the diagnosis
Getting diagnosed
Getting diagnosed with cancer is a process. It starts
when you or your doctor notices something abnormal:
like a lump that wasn’t there before, or a mole that
changes shape or color, or a pain that can’t be explained.
Your doctor will usually begin with relatively simple tests,
then move on to more complex and invasive procedures
in order to get the best possible information about what is
happening in your body. Very often he or she may send
you to a specialist who is more experienced in diagnosing
and treating the specific type of cancer you have.
Medical history and physical exam
A medical history and physical exam are two of the most
basic tools of diagnosis. A medical history is just what
it sounds like—a history of everything that has ever
happened to you health-wise, including any symptoms
you recently have had or currently have.
When taking your medical history, your doctor will gather
information about any health events that have happened
in your life—including surgeries, accidents, and past
illnesses—as well as information on current problems
and any medications you are taking. (It may help to make
a list before you go to your appointment to make sure you
don’t forget anything.) Because some cancers and other
health problems can run in families, your doctor will also
ask about the medical histories of close relatives such as
your parents, grandparents, and brothers or sisters.
Doctors often perform a physical exam along with taking
a medical history. A physical exam is an examination of
your body for signs of disease. During this exam, your
doctor will listen to your lungs, heart, and belly. He or she
will also likely feel and apply pressure to various parts of
your body to see if organs are of normal size, are soft or
hard, or cause pain when touched.
Because the information in your medical history
will help determine what treatment is best for you,
it’s important to be as complete and as accurate as
Be honest and tell your doctor if you drink alcohol,
use recreational drugs such as marijuana, or are
taking over-the-counter medications, supplements,
or naturopathic treatments. Be honest about your
sexual history and habits. Remember, doctors aren’t
there to judge you. They just need to understand
everything that can have an impact on your health
so they can make the best possible decisions about
your care.
Giving your medical history:
Honesty is the best policy
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