Making Your Medical questions a Priority from your Desk

Mary McDonnell

As parents, we are first in line to the doctor or pharmacy if our children are sick but if we experience a few chills, aches or pains we tend to procrastinate getting help.  I recently discovered that the Cleveland Clinic’s website offers answers from a nurse. The program is call Ask Nurse Mary and you can  email your specific questions – even those that are some times embarrassing and she’ll post an answer within a couple of days.

Here is an example:

Q:  My doctor has been nagging me about getting a colonoscopy.  Is it really necessary?

A:  Maybe you’ve tried every excuse in the book, from “No one in my family has had colon cancer,” to “It’s too painful.”  But there’s just no getting around it.  Colonoscopies save lives.  Colon Cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer.  Everyone is at risk!  In fact, one in 18 American men and women will get colon cancer in their lifetime.  And that’s a shame, since colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.

Colon cancer is symptom-free at first, usually starting as a precancerous growth in the colon called an adenomatous polyp.  Polyps rarely cause any symptoms and when they are detected during a colonoscopy, they can be removed before they pose a problem.

Begin colon cancer screening at age 50, or earlier if you have risk factors.  And reduce your risk by making simple lifestyle changes now: improve your diet, maintain a normal body weight, exercise and avoid smoking. If you want to know more about your risk and take the first step in prevention, take our free and easy survey and see how you score by visiting

Clearly if you are having chest pains or experiencing emergency symptoms – you’ll want to see your doctor or the emergency room right away. But Ask Nurse Mary is a great resource when you have a medical question out of curiosity or perhaps something you don’t feel comfortable talking about to your doctor. 

Mary McDonnell is a nurse advocate for the Center for Specialized Women’s Health, located on the main campus of Cleveland Clinic. As one of the responders of the 4HER Telephone Line, 216.444.4HER, Mary assists new patients in facilitating appointments for their specific problems with the correct specialist. Callers from around the world seek information and direction, which Mary provides with expertise.

A registered nurse at the Cleveland Clinic for over twenty years, she has been with the Center for Specialized Women’s Health for several years. Mary coordinates the health screenings for all Cleveland Speaking of Women’s Health and Universal Sisters conferences. She shares her knowledge at many Cleveland community organizations, schools and health fairs, providing health information and speaking on such topics as “Be Prepared for Your Physician Visit” and “What I Do for Patients.”

I am sure there are many health systems creating smiliar inititiaves, do yourself a favor and investigate why it is only a question and not something that requires immediate attention.