Women, White Lies And The Doctor

Ever fibbed a little at the doctor's office?

Lying to your doctor could have serious potential health risks, according to CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton. Ashton discussed Tuesday on The Early Show some of the most common fictions women tell their doctors and the risks of running those lies.

Ashton said a common lie is about their sex lives and birth control. Ashton said patients say they have only one sexual partner, but in reality, have several, or practice unsafe sex.

Ashton said these lies could result in an improper sexually transmitted disease screening, or an unwanted pregnancy.

Ashton said people often lie to their doctor because of fear, embarrassment or if they're concerned about being judged.

"I tell my patients every day, 'I'm not your priest or rabbi. I'm not the police, so when I ask a question, I'm not making a social judgment, I just want to be the best doctor,"' Ashton said.

Women also lie about drinking and smoking, according to Ashton, "couch(ing) it as recreational use."

The risk of those lies, Ashton said, is the doctor not picking up dependence or addiction problems, and foregoing screening for counseling or for certain behaviorally-related cancers, such as lung cancer.

Ashton told CBS News medications can also be affected. Antihistamines and alcohol, she said, can have a significant depressant effect, while sleep aids and anxiety medications can have additive sedative effects.

Another common untruth is how long a patient has been dealing with symptoms.

"If patients are in denial," she said, "they let things go a long time."

But not reporting symptoms, Ashton said, could result in delayed or inappropriate treatment.

Ashton told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith she can sometimes tell when someone is lying to her, but the real fear for her is when she can't tell.

"In order to be the best doctor, the patient needs to be truthful. But the doctor has to be open to hearing the truth. It's a partnership," she said. "A two-way street."

Ashton said patients should give physicians the whole truth, despite spending less and less time in their doctor's office.

"That doctor-patient relationship is suffering," she said. "This is what we're seeing as a result."