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Changing Doctors

Posted 8/14/2014

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  It is really important that you trust, respect, and can easily communicate with your doctor(s). This has especially been on my mind this week as I have helped two women navigate through a physician change. They both felt awkward and badly about it, and needed strategies and reassurance that these situations are not unusual. One absolute bottom line is this: Your needs come first.

  The first situation involved a woman who is being treated for Stage IV ovarian cancer. She has been content with her medical oncologist, but, having recently had some bad news, set up a second opinion with a different doctor. Like all good doctors, her oncologist was fine with this plan and offered to be helpful however she could. The patient met with Doctor #2 and liked her better. Feeling guilty and disloyal, she talked to me about her wish to transfer her care.

  The second situation was a woman planning a mastectomy with reconstruction for a new breast cancer diagnosis. She likes her breast surgeon very much, but, after two meetings with the plastic surgeon, did not feel comfortable with him. Her concerns and worries were even more layered. She didn't want to "hurt" the plastic surgeon's feelings, and she also didn't want to irritate her breast surgeon who had made the referral. Again, we talked about the absolute need for her to trust and feel comfortable with her doctors. In her situation, it really will be the plastic surgeon who does the larger part of the surgery, and it will be the plastic surgeon whom she sees regularly for quite a while. With support and promises that this happens not infrequently, she made an appointment with a second plastic surgeon, and is already feeling relieved. As anticipated, her breast surgeon was fully supportive of this switch.

  For all the obvious reasons, women usually have a harder time with this than do men. We are so programmed to please others that,even while dealing with cancer, we are uncomfortable with behaviors that seem a little unkind or ungrateful or selfish. To cut to the chase: Get over it. Your health is the most important issue, and you need to attend first to your own needs and feelings and thoughts.

  In case you need other support, this is a nice article from CancerNet about changing doctors. Their focus is more on changes dictated by a move or insurance, but the principles are the same.

Finding a New Doctor 

 Key Messages:
A variety of circumstances may require you to search for a new oncologist, which is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer.
Although the idea of switching doctors may feel upsetting or overwhelming, you can take steps to find an oncologist whom you like and trust.


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