Going to the doctor’s can be an anxious time but it’s important to be completely honest with your GP, as it could be essential to your wellbeing. “Being open with your GP about any health worries is really crucial,” says Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, from private online GP service Your Doctor (yourdoctor.co.uk). “Some things are a little embarrassing for us to talk about but remember that doctors have seen it all countless times, and having an examination or showing your GP a lump may just save your life. If you have something that doesn’t feel, or look, quite right, always book an appointment and explain all of your symptoms so they can either help you or put you at ease.” So, with that in mind, here are seven things that you should never hide from your GP.
1. If you’re overly stressed
Is it all getting too much? Speak up. “Although we all experience stress throughout our lives, and a little stress is good for us, sometimes things can feel overwhelming,” says Dr Riccardo. “It’s important to share this with your doctor because they will be able to find ways to help you cope, and because too much stress is a major health issue that can even put you at risk of a heart attack, stroke and mental health issues, as well as potentially affecting your relationships and work.”
2. Any lumps, bumps or moles
“Although most lumps and bumps are normal, it’s important to get them checked regularly by your GP, especially if they grow in shape or size, become painful or change in colour, and if they are found in specific areas, such as the breasts or testicles,” says Dr Riccardo. Moles can develop into skin cancer, so always keep an eye on them, and do get them looked at if they begin to worry you.
3. How much alcohol you drink
Lots of people aren’t honest with their GP about how many units of alcohol they actually drink on average – in fact, a recent survey by Direct Line Life Insurance has revealed that it’s now so common, GPs will double the figure their patients tell them. “Both men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week,” explains Dr Riccardo. “It’s important to note that these units should be spread over the course of a week, rather than being drunk all at once at the weekend! Drinking in moderation is OK but consuming too much can cause damaging effects to your heart, as well as leading to liver disease, and it’s associated with cancer. If you’re worried that you’re drinking too much, try having dry days – Dry January is something that you could attempt this year. Tell your GP about your intentions so they can help support you.” Visit alcoholconcern.org.uk to find out more about Dry January and to download the app.
4. If you smoke
“Those that deny to health professionals that they smoke typically tend to be the occasional, or ‘social’, smoker,” explains Dr Riccardo. “However, even if you only smoke here and there, you’re still putting your health at severe risk. If you smoke at all then you are a smoker, no matter how many cigarettes you do smoke. By letting your GP know, they can provide you with the necessary advice if you wish to give up, and you’re far more likely to be able to get rid of the habit entirely. Remember – smoking causes 84 percent of lung cancer related deaths in the UK, so it’s best your doctor knows.”
5. That you’re taking herbal supplements
“Herbal supplements may seem harmless but they are often unregulated and have the potential to cause adverse side effects,” says Dr Riccardo. “Worryingly, supplements can also interfere with other medicines, such as chemotherapy, or other treatments for the immune system. Before you start taking anything like this, always check with your GP that the supplements you wish to use are suitable for you and your needs.”
6. If you have blood in your urine or stools
“While finding blood in your stool is relatively common, it can still be alarming. “This is always something you should consider flagging up with your GP, as rectal bleeding can be a sign of bowel cancer and therefore should always be checked,” warns Dr Riccardo. “Similarly, discovering blood in your urine is also something that you must discuss with your doctor, even if it has only happened once and you have no other symptoms. And, if you find that you’re passing stools or urinating often, straining while you urinate, or have a feeling that you haven’t completely emptied your bladder, be sure to visit your GP to get yourself checked out.”
7. That you take sleeping pills
Lack of sleep is a common occurrence among many of us but quick fixes aren’t the answer. “These days, we’re often not sleeping enough on an average night, with most of us needing between seven to eight hours of sleep,” says Dr Riccardo. “In order to function and feel at your best, quality rest is vital to increase brain power, reduce stress, improve memory, lower blood pressure and allow our bodies to heal and repair. Sleeping pills are often the last resort for most people, so if you’re taking them without medical guidance, it’s important to understand that they can cause constipation, diarrhoea, daytime drowsiness and dizziness. There are alternative ways to help with getting enough rest, so seek advice from a GP before taking these sorts of tablets, or let your doctor prescribe the right ones.”