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English for Medical Communication-Ask about diseases of the digestive system-Lesson 6

The next topic in the series of Medical Communication English series is to ask about diseases of the digestive system (gastrointestinal tract). The typical symptom when going to the doctor is abdominal pain (abdomical pain).

Classification of symptoms of abdominal pain:

– Acute abdominal pain (Acute abdominal pain): is a condition that requires urgent, immediate surgical intervention (immediate surgical intervention).
– Chronic abdominal pain (Chronic abdominal pain). It is important to distinguish acute exacerbation of chronic abdominal pain and acute abdominal pain (an acute exacerbation of chronic abdominal pain)
– Abdominal pain of unknown location (Nonspecific abdominal pain)
– Referred pain (Referred pain)
– Somatic/systemic pain (Somatic pain)
– Visceral pain (Visceral pain)

Sample sentences used to reassure when the patient comes to the doctor:

Use initial words to reassure them, make them feel comfortable and free of stress. Once we have a good start, we can apply the following question pattern OPQRST or SOCRATES.

Link to the article How to ask Symptoms in English here:

– I am sorry to see that you are having a stomach ache. Can you tell me more? (I’m sorry to hear that you are having abdominal pain. Can you tell me more about it?).
– When do you have a stomach ache? (When did your abdominal pain begin?). Listen carefully for details that can help with a differential diagnosis (a differential diagnosis).
– I know that this abdominal pain is very uncomfortable for you; I would like to ask a few questions to better understand what is causing this pain? (I can tell that this abdominal pain is very uncomfortable for you; I’d like to ask you some questions so I can understand what is causing your pain?)

Some sample questions to approach patients with abdominal pain:

After you have reassured the patient, explore the patient’s symptoms using the sentences below or according to OPQRST/SOCRATES:

rovocation: What makes the pain worse or better? (Factor is increase/decrease in pain?)
uality: What is the character of the pain? (The nature of the pain?)
adiation: Does the pain radiate? (Does the pain spread?)
everity: Rate the pain on a scale from 0 to 10 (with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain possible) (Race the pain from 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the most painful).
iming/ BILLIONreatment: How long have you had the pain? (How long have you been in pain?), Has the pain been persistent or intermittent over this period of time? (Does the pain persist or have attacks during this time?), What has been done to treat the pain? (What did you do to relieve the pain?).

Questions that explore other digestive symptoms:

Change in bowel habits: Change in bowel habit/bowel movements. Have you changed your bowel habits? / How many times do you go to the toilet? (Have you had any change in bowel habits? How often do you have bowel movements?)
– Difficulty swallowing : Dysphagia. Do you have difficulty drinking/swallowing solid foods? (Do you have difficulty swallowing liquids/ solids?)
– Bloody stools: Rectal bleeding. How much blood? What is the color of blood? Fresh or bold? Is it mixed with feces? (How much blood is there? What shade of red is the blood? Light or dark? Mixed within stools?)
– Vomit: Vomiting. What color is vomit? Is there blood in the vomit? How much amount? How many times? (What color is the vomit? Is there blood in the vomit? How much? How often?)

What is the patient’s gastrointestinal history?

If we don’t ask for a history, the patient usually won’t speak and sometimes even hides it to “challenge” the doctor. Here are some sample sentences for taking medical history.

Medical history: Do you have any medical/health problems? (Past medical history: Do you have any medical problems?)
Medication history: Do you take medications regularly? (Drug history: Do you take any regular medication?)
– Family history: Does anyone in your family have…? (Family history: Is there anyone in your family with…?)
Social history: Do you live alone? Are there any family members or friends near you? (Social history: Do you live alone? Do you have any family or friends living nearby?)

So we already know how to ask the patient when we see a patient with symptoms of abdominal pain. See you in the next article in Anhvanyds’ Medical Communication English series.

Posted by BS.Tran Nam Anh

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