When a person is newly diagnosed with breast cancer, the last thing on our minds is whether or not we will have the right oncologist – someone who cares about us and understands what we’re going through.
Yet it is probably one of the most important things about your journey through breast cancer because this person is part of your healing team.
What exactly is an oncologist?
Breaking the word down, “onc” means bulk, mass, or tumor, and the suffix ”-logy”, means “study of”. A medical professional who studies cancer and practices oncology is an ”oncologist”.
I know so many women who have been complaining about their oncologist lately. There are good ones and bad ones, just as with any profession. As long as you are paying attention and observant, you’ll easily be able to pick whether you have one or the other.
Honestly, this is so important. If you don’t feel like your oncologist is giving you what you need, you have every right to “fire” them and find another. Remember – they work for YOU, not the other way around.
Here’s what to look for
Are they honest and open, easy to speak with? Do they look at you and meet your gaze?
Do they answer your questions using technical jargon you don’t understand? If so, you must tell them you don’t understand. Do they then take the time to rephrase the terminology so that you do understand?
Do they discuss your lab results with you and make sure you understand them?
Do they present you with options for treatment and explain each one carefully until you understand?
Do they keep their appointments with you? (keeping in mind that sometimes they will get delayed)
Do they return your phone calls within 24 hours?
Are their office staff pleasant to deal with and happy?
Are they open to allowing you to do some things your way?
If you have to answer “no” to any of those questions, it might be time to find yourself another oncologist.
By the way, I asked that last question because some oncologists seem to think they are deities. Their word is sacrosanct. They get mad when you take vitamins or try acupuncture to alleviate some of your side effects from cancer treatments. I would respectfully suggest that you don’t want someone like that.
You have the final say here. Having a good rapport with your oncologist is really important because they are part of your healing team. You must be comfortable with them and know that they are doing their absolute best for you. If you don’t feel that way, you have every right to find yourself another doctor!
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