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You need to feel as though you can share all your concerns with your physician, no matter how absurd you might think they are. "Some of those imagined possibilities are so frightening that people feel embarrassed to share them," says Cope. "Your thoughts could run like this: This is probably only a cold; I hope it's not pneumonia; I sure hope I haven't got leukemia." If you don't share these fears with your doctor--and give him or her a chance to rule out worst-case scenarios--you may continue to have nagging doubts about both the diagnosis and your doctor's skill, says Cope.
Finally, if you have an appointment scheduled and you expect to receive bad news, prepare for it. Take along someone whose support you can count on to take notes and serve as an extra set of ears. Also consider using a tape recorder so you'll have a record of the doctor's explanation and instructions, counsels Lipkin. Sometimes anxiety makes it hard to absorb information the first time around.
"A lot of people have the idea that doctors prefer to be in charge," Lipkin says, "but we found that physician satisfaction was highest when patients took an active role in their own care."