1. Don't believe everything you hear (get a second opinion)
The extra effort and additional consultations will undoubtedly educate you further, which is always self-empowering.
2. Ask a ton of questions
Take a list with you. Schedule time for questions. And be prepared for answers.
3. If you are going to use the Web, search smart
Eight out of ten Internet users have searched the Web specifically for health information. Protect your privacy and don't give out personal information. And compare and contrast -- in many instances, you can check prices, hospital ratings and what services are offered online before your visit.
4. Free and discounted care is out there
The Department of Health and Human Services provides assistance through federally funded health centers. You pay what you can afford based on your income level. There are also several groups specializing in helping people find affordable insurance and free care, including: Coverage for All, Ehealthinsurance, Healthcare Advocacy, Patient Advocate Foundation and Patient Services Incorporated.
5. Paying attention can save your life
You know your body better than anyone else. If your gut tells you something just isn't right, then listen to it. Know your medications, and track your progress.