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Health Worries

Dear Dr. Expert,

I have this mole on my back. I went to the doctor and she said it was fine. But I just KNOW its cancer – and nobody will believe me. I made my mom take me to another doctor for another opinion.  That doctor also said it was fine and told me to just watch it to see if it changes. I still can’t believe them – I hear about these things being missed all of the time. Now cancer is all I think about!  And I can’t stop checking out the mole in the mirror. I’ve also been spending lots of time on the internet researching skin cancer.  I also keep asking my Mom if she thinks I’m okay.

Dying in Delta

Dr. Expert: Dear Dying in Delta,

It really sounds like you’re having a lot of uncontrollable worry about your health. You can reduce your worry by challenging your thoughts to see if they are realistic or not. First, you need to determine whether you’ve fallen into a thinking trap, which is an overly negative way of seeing things. In this case, it sounds like you are overestimating danger. You can challenge these negative thoughts by asking yourself questions, such as “what is the evidence that this thought is true?” Although it is possible that the doctors have missed something, ask yourself if it is probable or likely? After challenging your negative thoughts, you will be able to evaluate it more objectively and come up with an alternative thought that is more balanced and realistic. For example, instead of the unhelpful thought, “I know I have cancer and the doctor missed something” a more helpful thought would be, “My doctor has been practicing medicine for many years and sees moles all of the time. It’s very unlikely that he would miss cancer. Although I can keep an eye on it, looking at it many times a day is not helpful.” Also, it’s not helpful to constantly research your health worries on the internet. In fact, it will actually make you more worried about your health in the long-term and won’t ever give you a clear answer. Finally, although getting some assurance from your doctor or Mom that you’re okay can be helpful, constantly seeking re-assurance will only make you more anxious.  So, work on reducing your internet researching and reassurance-seeking. Although it can be hard to stop doing this in the short-term, it will help you feel less anxious in the long-term.