Keep a Health Journal:
A simple and effective way to increase your own awareness of your overall health, and especially your breast health, is to keep a health journal or calendar. Noting down dates will help you see your overall health picture more easily. A good way to do this is to use a small pocket calendar. Carry the calendar with you on vacations and while traveling, so that your record will be accurate. Bring the health journal with you to medical appointments, so you can answer any questions.
Breast Self-Exam (BSE):
Note the date that you do your monthly breast self-exam (BSE). If you are pre-menopausal, pick a date that is a few days after your period ends. If you are peri- or post-menopausal, pick a regular monthly date for doing your BSE. If you notice changes, write those down. Many changes in the breast are related to hormonal cycles, so when your estrogen and progesterone levels increase, so will your breasts. When your hormone levels drop, your breasts may return to a normal state.
Keep a record of your menses, so you will be more aware of what phase of the cycle you are in. Mark each day that your period is in flow. Breasts may become tender and a bit swollen during your period. If you are menopausal, and have any spotting, bloating or pain, note those times.
Write the dates of your most recent screenings in the calendar, too. Mark the dates of your mammograms, ultrasounds, pelvic exams, PAP smears, chest x-rays, and any blood tests you may have had.
Surgeries and Lab Results:
List any surgeries you've had, with the type and date of each procedure. If you know what kind of anesthesia you had, and your reaction to it, include that information, too. If lab tests were done in relation to the procedures, note the results.
Record the dates of flu shots or tetanus shots in your health calendar for easy reference. Make note of any other injections that you've had.
Current symptoms and/or concerns:
If you're headed for a medical appointment, write down your symptoms. Those could include: fever, aches, pains, swelling, bleeding, visual disturbances, vomiting or nausea. If your concerns are less specific, try writing a descriptive analogy, such as: "It feels like my energy leaked away, like air going out of a balloon."
Medications and Vitamins:
Make a list of any medications that you are taking, including prescriptions, supplements, vitamins, and over-the-counter drugs. Take the list with you to any doctor's appointments, so you can give an accurate account of your medications. This can help you to avoid drug interactions if you are seeing several different doctors. If you are going to have any surgical procedures, some supplements, vitamins and medications must be discontinued beforehand because they may thin your blood.
Health Background Details:
If you're starting out with a doctor that is new to you, these background details would be very helpful to take along to your first appointment:
- Past medical history
- Past surgical history
- Allergies (pollen, mold, dust, medications, etc.)
- Adverse reactions (drugs, treatments, etc.)
- Use of drugs and/or alcohol
- Smoking history
- Sexual activity (active, celibate, preference, contraception/condom use)
- Family health history
- Exercise (how much and how often)
- Diet and nutrition
Increased Awareness and Better Health:
You can be your own best friend by keeping watch over your own health. Having a clear, accurate record of your body's cycles helps you compare changes if they come up. Talking with your health care team becomes easier if you have a concise health record to refer to during a consultation. Keep a health journal to stay on top and increase your health awareness.