When Do I Go to the Doctor?

I have high-risk “catastrophic” health insurance. COBRA would have cost me $400+, and any full health insurance would have cost me a small fortune. I also had a lot of trouble getting insurance in the first place (see here, here, and here) so I’m ecstatic to have the minimal health insurance that I have for something like $138 a month.

Two days ago I noticed a fairly large, hard bump on the back of my head, a few inches from my ears. It was swollen and throbbing. After doing some research online I’ve determined that the lump is a swollen lymph node.

Swollen lymph nodes can be caused by a lot of different things, ranging from a minor infection to cancer.

I doubt I have cancer. The good news is the bump (although still really tender) has shrunk quite a bit in the last two days. So it seems that it’s just an infection and it’s going away. I noticed there are actually two bumps there, but they’re slowly shrinking.

My concern is that — what if they were the warning signs of cancer? At what point do I go to the doctor to get such things checked out?

When I had “regular” insurance I barely ever went to the doctor. I hate the doctor. I’d go only if I was really, really sick and I’d wait it out for a while to see if I could get better before heading in for a diagnosis.

But I no longer have the luxury of going in to get something checked out for free (minus the co-pay). Going to the doctor is quite expensive. It’s not even so much the doctor’s visit as much as the fear that the doctor will either tell me that it’s nothing (=waste of money) OR the doctor will order a bunch of expensive tests that will add up to thousands of dollars out of pocket.

I can make an educated guess about whether my head lump is something I should worry about or not, and I can wait longer than I would to get it checked out and hope for the best… but the crappy thing about not having regular health insurance is that I just can’t go to the doctor for every little thing like this.

At what point should I go to the doctor to get this lump checked out?

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3 thoughts on “When Do I Go to the Doctor?”

  1. Is there a walk-in clinic in your area? Do you have any friends or family members that are doctors? I wouldn't mess around if there is a possibility of cancer. I know we're both young, but cancer is happening at young ages these days. I would get it checked out, stat!

  2. I probably just need antibiotics, given what I've read online about what I might have. It's scary because if I have what I think I have, there's a very small chance it can be fatal (even if it's not cancer.)I'm waiting a week and then I'll go to the doctor.

  3. "It's scary because if I have what I think I have, there's a very small chance it can be fatal (even if it's not cancer.)I'm waiting a week and then I'll go to the doctor."how do you think this is a smart decision? change the question from "Should I pay to go see a doctor?" to "How much am I willing to pay for peace of mind?"Is $100 worth peace of mind or would you rather freak out for the next week when it continues to shrink but doesn't quite go away or it even goes away but you still think that it might come back or something?

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