Something hurts – your belly, your head, your knee. A painless lump suddenly appears, or you bleed a little after sex. You’re worried. Is it okay to wait and see if the problem, will go away, or should you call your doctor? As a general rule, you should wait no more than two weeks, says Isadore Rosenfeld, M.D. Author of symptoms. If the pain or an unexplained change in appetite, sleep, urination, or bowel movement lingers for that length of time, consult a doctor. The same applies for any symptoms (such as a pain, a cough, swelling, or bleeding) that go away and then return, or that slowly worsen. Acute symptoms (trouble breathing, sudden weakness or dizziness, severe pain or bleeding) require urgent medical attention. If you can’t get in touch with your doctor immediately, head for the emergency room or call an ambulance.

Abdominal pain is one of the toughest symptoms to pin down because it has so many possible sources – intestinal gas, ulcers, gallbladder problems, or an irritable bowel, to name a few. An infected appendix typically causes pain on the right side or near the belly button. It may be accompanied by a change in bowel movements, cramping, or low fever. It may worsen progressively. If you see appendicitis symptoms, seek medical attention. Rupture of the appendix can cause serious bleeding, infection, and even death. Other pains should be investigated if they persist, worsen, or continue to worry you.

If you’d like to be screened for symptoms of appendicitis or any other condition, speak up. It’s best to communicate your concerns to your doctor and see if she doesn’t agree that the test might be worthwhile. Unless it’s a ridiculous request, most insurers reimburse for tests your physician agrees may be beneficial. And if the insurer refuses to pay for it. Most physicians have no objection if you want a test and are willing to pay for it out of pocket.