Choosing Your Cancer Medical Team Members

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

You have just received the news that you have cancer. Most likely you are in shock and fearful beyond anything that you have known in the past. If the diagnosis was given to you in person by your doctor, you immediately will be barraged with information and the next steps in your treatment that you might not even remember in the next minute. If the information was provided by phone and you are now requested to see your doctor as soon as possible, your thoughts will most likely spin out of control as you go to a place in your mind that you didn’t even know existed. Why me? Why now? What did I do or not do to make this happen? What should I do? Who should I tell? What about all of my responsibilities? The questions are endless with most of them never being satisfactorily answered for you. So what might be the best next step for you?

No one will ever be able to help you if you don’t share your needs and concerns and no one will ever be more vested in your well-being than you.Barbara Jacoby

If you are like me, I didn’t even understand what choices to make about my treatment, let alone what questions to ask about the offerings given to me. Therefore, I was extremely grateful for the primary care physician (PCP) that I had in whom I had complete trust in order to navigate my course and decision making. As all of my medical professionals had to be selected from the medical group covered by my insurance, I was referred to an oncologist whose method of selecting my treatment did not sound right to me.

Therefore, I went back to my PCP to request a second opinion. I was referred to another oncologist who was in the same office as the first one but the staff was so helpful to me by sneaking me in the back door to see the second doctor without having to cross paths with the first. For that I was extremely grateful as I didn’t need the added stress of having to engage with and explain myself to that first doctor. And that second oncologist has not only been a perfect match for me to this day but also discovered a thyroid/parathyroid situation that had been missed by my PCP.

My PCP was of utmost assistance to me when I was dealing with the endocrinologist and in helping me find the correct surgeon for my parathyroid surgery after four referrals to surgeons who were not utilizing the most current procedure that I found from my own research and shared with her. And not only did I have a great doctor/patient interaction for my situation but also my PCP was able to provide a much better outcome for another one of her patients who was dealing with the exact same problem that I was having.

I also had multiple surgeries for my lumpectomy and double mastectomy and reconstruction procedures. Normally, I had absolutely no issues with waking up from any of the surgeries except for one. I shared this information with my plastic surgeon so that whatever anesthesia that had been successfully administered in the exact right amount for me would continue to be used for the subsequent surgeries so that I would never have to experience such a situation again. And when it came time to do the thyroid/parathyroid surgery, I went back to my plastic surgeon with a request that he share the anesthesia information with the doctor who would be doing this surgery as well and I had the perfect outcome as a result.

As a result of my own experiences, I would always strongly recommend that if you receive a cancer diagnosis that you put yourself first and do everything necessary to create the peace of mind that will create the best outcome for you. If you are not comfortable with any medical professional to whom you are referred and/or any treatment recommended to you, do yourself a favor and ask for that second, or third, etc. opinion until you are comfortable with not only the treatment but the professional who will be administering it. Your mental well-being is just as important as the physical treatments that you will be receiving in order to provide for the best outcomes for you.

Whatever your experiences may be, including side effects, etc. from your treatments, they should also be shared as you can be fairly sure that your doctor has had other patients who have had the same experiences and most likely can share some solutions. But, most importantly, if at any time you are not being heard or are not being respected by any medical professional or their office staff members, please seek care elsewhere. No one will ever be able to help you if you don’t share your needs and concerns and no one will ever be more vested in your well-being than you.