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Navigating Las Vegas Healthcare & Beyond: My Personal Journey Plus Men's and Women's Health Tips

Updated: May 16

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Focus on community involvement and proactive healthcare engagement
Navigating healthcare in Las Vegas.: My Personal Journey Plus Men's and Women's Health Tips

After settling in Las Vegas in late 2017, I've come face-to-face with the realities of its healthcare system. I’ve observed a troubling trend: many men wait until they are critically ill before seeing a doctor which is simply not ok. Through my personal experiences, especially concerning breast health and mammograms, I've grasped the importance of self-advocacy in medical care and am advocating for preventive care and regular check-ups. This blog shares my journey and insights to empower you in managing your healthcare with confidence.


Understanding the Las Vegas Healthcare Landscape:

Las Vegas's healthcare system struggles under the influx of new residents. Limited medical staff contributes to a system that can feel uncaring and overwhelming. Here's how I navigated these challenges and what you can do to manage your medical care effectively in your state.


My Healthcare Experience: From Mammograms to IVF

Last year, I faced a distressing episode with a radiologist in Las Vegas who failed to inform me about an inconclusive mammogram. This lapse compelled me to seek care from a trusted doctor in California. My story underlines the need for proactive health management and patient advocacy in Las Vegas. In California, I went to the best doctor in the world in my opinion, my primary care physician who I’ve been with for over 18+ years, Ratul Chatterjee, M.D. located in Newport Beach. He disclosed that I needed further testing, an ultrasound which led to a biopsy to then getting surgery to remove something found on my left breast. I got the surgery as a preventative measure to avoid cancer developing in that area. This experience drove home the lesson that in Las Vegas, proactive health management is non-negotiable. 


This year, I decided to do IVF and it wasn't until I got another mammogram done (at a new facility) that I had to put a hold on my journey because once again, I had an inconclusive mammogram, just like last year. The worst part is that I never got called or emailed about my results yet again and instead, I learned from my IVF doctor that I had to immediately go back to get an ultrasound done. 


I got my results from the ultrasound and it turned out that I needed to get a diagnostic mammogram next. Well, the radiologist couldn't see me until the end of the month which was crazy to me knowing well my primary doctor needed me to get it done asap. So, I decided to switch radiology clinics and went with a referral from my IVF doctor. Unfortunately, my results were inconclusive again due to me having dense breasts, preventing the machine from capturing clear images in areas they needed to see with 100% clarity. Next, I had to get a breast MRI to go to the next level of detail. I then started to do research on dense breasts and my mind was blown with everything I learned. Now, I want to help educate men and women on how to communicate and prepare when going to the doctor because it can change your life for the better! 


Many people don't even know they have rights to get second opinions, ask questions if they don't understand something, or even request for interpreter services for example if they don't speak English fully. Patient advocacy is key, especially in Las Vegas healthcare. I'm outraged at the thought that many patients, both men and women, can walk into a doctor's office and just simply accept what they are being told without ever questioning things. If you have a gut feeling (and as women, we often do), then start doing your own research and question things, it’s your god given right! 


Tips for Navigating Your Medical Appointments

I've compiled a checklist to help you when visiting the doctor, including preparation, question-asking, and follow-up practices. These tips are crafted to strengthen patient advocacy, ensuring you're prepared, informed, and empowered during doctor visits.

Convey the concept of empowerment and patient advocacy.
Doctor Visit Checklist for Men & Women: Advocating for Your Health

Doctor Visit Checklist for Las Vegas Healthcare & Beyond with Women & Men's Health Tips


1. Prepare for Your Appointment:


  • List your symptoms, including when they started and what makes them better or worse.

  • Have a list of all medications you are taking, including supplements and over-the-counter drugs.


2. Know Your Medical History:


  • Be aware of your personal and family medical history. This can be crucial for diagnosis and treatment options. I highly advise you to have conversations with your parents & family members to learn about any health issues so you can inform the doctor of the things that run through your family. The more informed the doctor is about your history and your family history, the better plan of action you will receive to target the issue at hand. So, being informed is of the utmost importance.


3. Bring Support:


  • Consider taking a friend or family member with you if you feel it might help you remember information or advocate on your behalf. Understanding medical lingo is not easy so asking someone to come with you that can be a second set of ears for you is extremely important. My mother plays this role for her siblings for example, and it makes all the difference in the world for them. She has the medical lingo in lock from many years of experience that she now advocates for others to give them a voice. Not everyone is comfortable with speaking to a doctor however, which is why you need to have someone with you who's willing to listen and ask questions to ensure they understand the information being shared. 


As a result, if you have limited English proficiency or are deaf or hard of hearing, by federal law (Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 & Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)), you have the right to have an interpreter during medical appointments. Please be sure to request this service in advance of your appointment to ensure the healthcare provider has time to arrange for interpreter services. 


4. Ask Questions:

  • Prepare a list of questions you want to ask about your symptoms, treatments, and any other medical concerns.

  • Examples: What is this test for? Are there alternatives to this treatment? What are the risks and benefits?


5. Get Clarity on Next Steps:

  • Ensure you understand your treatment plan.

  • Ask for details about any prescribed medication—how to take it, possible side effects, and interactions with other medications.


6. Request Second Opinions if Necessary:

  • If unsure about a diagnosis or treatment, ask how you can get a second opinion.


7. Document Everything:

  • Take notes during your appointment or ask permission to record the discussion.


8. Follow-Up on Test Results:

  • Always ask when and how you will receive test results. Don’t assume no news is good news. In the medical industry, YOU must stay on top of test results, no matter what. 


9. Understand Your Rights:

  • You have the right to understand your treatment options and to ask for an interpreter if there’s a language barrier.


10. Stay Organized:

  • Keep all your medical documents, test results, and notes organized in a binder or digital folder.


11. Communicate Openly:

  • Be honest about your habits, lifestyle, and any symptoms you are experiencing. Withholding information can hinder your care.


12. Advocate for Yourself:


  • If you feel your concerns are not being taken seriously, speak up or consider finding another healthcare provider.

A person conducting online research on a computer, with ratings and reviews of doctors visible on the screen, and another person in the background talking on the phone about referrals.
Seeking Referrals Effectively

Finding a New Healthcare Provider

Switching medical providers can be a daunting task. I've outlined steps to ease this process, focusing on using your insurance network, seeking referrals, and doing thorough online research.


  • Insurance Network:

Start by checking your health insurance provider’s website or calling their customer service to get a list of covered healthcare providers in your area. This ensures any new provider you consider will be covered under your plan.


  • Referrals:

Ask for recommendations from friends, family, or your current healthcare provider. Personal referrals can be very helpful as they come with firsthand experience.


  • Research Online:

Use online resources and websites like Healthgrades, RateMDs, or Zocdoc to research potential providers. These platforms often provide reviews, ratings, and detailed information about providers’ qualifications, experience, and practice areas.


  • Specialist Needs:

If you need a specialist, consider asking your primary care doctor for a referral. Specialists are often networked with primary care physicians.


  • Consider Convenience:

Look for a provider whose office is conveniently located and has office hours that fit your schedule. This can make attending appointments much easier.


  • Check Credentials and Experience:

Verify the qualifications, certifications, and experience of the healthcare provider. Make sure they have the appropriate expertise to handle your specific health needs.


  • Initial Consultation:

Many providers offer a first consultation to get to know them and ask questions about their approach to care and communication. Use this as an opportunity to see if you feel comfortable with their style and manner.


  • Accessibility and Communication:

Consider how easy it is to communicate with the provider. Do they offer telehealth services? How quickly can they respond to emails or calls?


The Importance of Breast Density in Mammograms

For all my women with dense breasts, please know we are not alone. According to Densebreasts-info.org, "this is normal and common. In fact, nearly half (over 40%) of women over age 40 have dense breasts." This is why it's important to have a conversation with your healthcare provider about the best screening strategies, which might include supplemental imaging tests to ensure effective breast cancer screening and early detection. Here’s some super important information I learned that I want YOU to know:


1. Composition of Dense Breasts:

Dense breast tissue is composed of less fat and more connective and glandular tissues (Milk glands and Milk ducts). This composition can make breasts firmer and appear less transparent on a mammogram.


2. Visibility in Mammograms:

On a mammogram, fatty tissue appears dark, making it easier to see abnormalities or tumors, which show up as white. However, both dense tissue and tumors appear white, so tumors can be harder to distinguish in dense breasts.


3. Increased Breast Cancer Risk:

Research indicates that women with dense breasts have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer. The reasons aren't fully understood but may relate to the higher amount of glandular tissue.


4. Screening Challenges:

Due to the difficulty in detecting tumors via standard mammograms in dense breasts, additional screening methods like ultrasound or MRI might be recommended to better evaluate the breast tissue.


5. Diagnostic Delays:

Because it's harder to detect abnormalities in dense breasts, there might be delays in diagnosis or the need for further testing, which can be stressful and time-consuming for the patient.


6. Legislation and Notification:

Many states have laws requiring that women be notified if their mammograms show they have dense breasts. This is so they can discuss additional screening options with their healthcare providers to ensure comprehensive monitoring.

Current Legislative Map for Dense Breast Awareness
Legislative Map for Dense Breast Awareness

Staying Informed: The FDA's National Reporting Standard

I discuss the FDA's mandate for breast density notification because of a super important regulation that you need to know about. This regulation is a significant step for patient advocacy, helping women with dense breasts understand their screening results and the need for possible additional tests.


In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established a national reporting standard for mammography, which mandates that all mammography facilities notify patients and their referring providers about the patient's breast density. This new regulation, effective from March 10, 2023, requires compliance by all facilities by September 10, 2024.


Under this regulation, patients will receive one of two federal density notification statements in their results: either "not dense" or "dense." This notification is crucial because dense breast tissue can make it harder to detect cancer on mammograms and also increases the risk of developing breast cancer. The mammogram report sent to referring providers must also include a detailed assessment of the patient’s breast density, classifying it into one of four categories ranging from "almost entirely fatty" to "extremely dense."


These measures aim to enhance the effectiveness of breast cancer screening and ensure that patients with dense breasts are aware of their condition and the potential need for supplemental screening methods. This standardization across the nation seeks to improve patient awareness and care outcomes​ (DenseBreast-info, Inc.)​​ (DenseBreast-info, Inc.)​.


Women’s Health: A Call to Action

Join the World’s Leading Website About Dense Breasts, DenseBreast-info.org on Sep 25, 2024 for #WorldDenseBreastDay to get yourself educated on this because it’s so incredibly important for your health! They are raising worldwide awareness about dense breasts on this day and will share resources for women and health care providers. 


Please be sure to follow them on social media @densebreastinfo and let’s support one another. I absolutely love their website, especially their “For Patients” section where they provide all the “411” you need to know regarding dense breasts, including pictures of what your breasts look like. For example, you can download their patient brochure in over 24 different languages:

Dense Breast Patient Brochure in English
English Patient Brochure
5 Facts You Should Know Patient Brochure in English
5 Facts You Should Know Patient Brochure

Breast MRI: My Experience and What to Expect

Sharing my breast MRI experience, this section aims to illustrate the procedure for you, complete with personal reflections. For those navigating the Las Vegas healthcare system or any other healthcare system in your state, understanding what to expect during a breast MRI can be reassuring.


According to Mayo Clinic, “Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast, also called breast MRI, is a test used to find breast cancer. It also can help rule out breast cancer when there are other problems in the breast.


A breast MRI makes pictures of the inside of the breast. It uses powerful magnets, radio waves and a computer to make images with a lot of detail.”

Breast MRI image from the Mayo Foundation
Breast MRI image from the Mayo Foundation

From my personal experience, the technician at Pueblo Medical Imaging explained every step of the process, giving me comfort.  


  1. I changed into a gown and removed all my clothes (except undies and socks) and jewelry (Including my nose ring) to prepare for the scan.


2. If you're claustrophobic or anxious in tight spaces, it's important to let the healthcare team know in advance as they may provide medication to help you relax. I didn’t need medication, however, my technician gave me a ball to squeeze in case I had anxiety while inside the machine and wanted to stop the test at any time.


3. I was also given headphones without music (darn it!) so I can reduce the crazy noises I would then hear from the machine itself doing its thing and boy, that machine was loud!


4. A contrast dye was then administered through an IV to enhance the MRI images. 


5. For the scan, I lied face-down on the table that would then slide into the MRI scanner like you can see on the image above. 


6. The technician monitored me from another room and could communicate with me via a microphone.

7. The last part was for me to stay still and breathe normally throughout the procedure, which typically lasts between 15 minutes or more depending on your tolerance. During this time, all I was doing was praying in Spanish as I tried to meditate through prayer for good results. I prayed and prayed, all the way!


I wish I could say it was a pleasant experience, however, it wasn’t fun but I handled it like a champion and am proud to report that I lasted all 15 minutes inside the machine without moving an ounce so the machine could capture all images properly.


Once the exam is done, it then requires a doctor who specializes in breast tissue density that reviews the results with an extreme amount of detail to determine whether or not the tissue is cancerous. After anxiously waiting for my results, I’m happy to share that what they found on my breasts were benign, clearing me from having cancer, yay! God is great, all the time 🥰


To learn more about Breast MRI’s, How to Prepare for One, Learn about the Risks, etc., I highly recommend you checkout: Breast MRI - Mayo Clinic.


Next, I am going to switch things up a bit and focus on the men reading this article. This is especially important in Las Vegas healthcare, for men's health tips, women's health.

The importance of regular health checks and building a trusting relationship with healthcare providers.
Men's Health: the importance of regular health checks and building a trusting relationship with healthcare providers.

Breaking Down Barriers

There’s a misconception that men only go to the doctor when they are terribly sick and can’t take care of themselves. This shouldn’t be the case. Regular health exams are vital for early detection of potentially serious conditions. As someone who's maintained a relationship with my doctor for over 18 years, I can attest to the benefits of consistent care and the trust that develops over time.

Men’s Health: A Call to Action

I urge all men to see their doctor annually, not just when in dire need. It's about preventive care, catching issues early, and taking charge of your health. I've seen firsthand in Las Vegas and California how delayed care can lead to preventable complications and don’t wish this on anyone reading this. 

Building Trust with Your Doctor:

Finding a doctor you can trust is like building any long-term relationship; it takes time and communication. Start by scheduling a yearly exam, and be honest about your health habits. A doctor can only help if they know the full story. If you are currently paying for health insurance and you’re not getting a yearly health exam done, you’re simply losing out on investing in your health. 

Encouraging Men to Take the First Step:

To the men of Las Vegas and beyond, it's time to shift the narrative. Seeing your doctor should be as routine as maintaining your car. Better yet, before you celebrate your next birthday, be sure to give yourself the best gift of all and make an appointment to get your yearly physical check-up with bloodwork. It's not just about survival; it's about thriving and ensuring longevity for a healthy, fulfilling life.

Managing Stress Through Meditation:

Navigating the complexities of healthcare can be overwhelmingly stressful. To help manage this stress and maintain mental health, consider developing a meditation practice. I meditate daily by going on walking meditations with my puppy, Rambo! Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, improve focus, and contribute to a greater sense of well-being. Discover your ideal meditation practice by visiting our detailed guide: Discover Your Ideal Meditation Practice for Inner Peace.

Conclusion: Empowering Your Healthcare Journey

Whether you're a man or a woman, your health is your most valuable asset. I urge you to join me in advocating for a proactive approach to healthcare, where regular check-ups are the norm, not the exception. Celebrate life by scheduling your annual check-up, and embrace a partnership with your healthcare provider to ensure a long, healthy life. 


Share this blog on your social media to spread the word about the importance of proactive health management. Let's transform our health narratives together and ensure better outcomes for everyone. Use these hashtags to keep the conversation going:



By: Yanitza Reyna


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2 Comments


Guest
May 16

Super helpful tips. Thank you so much for sharing!

Like

Guest
May 16

Love this! Super Informative and very much needed for everyone!

Like
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