Coordinating four doctors?


Question from Maja: I have a dilemma. I am seeing four doctors: A surgeon, a plastic surgeon, an oncologist, and my primary care physician. How do I coordinate between them all?
Answers - Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. The most important thing is to make sure the doctors are talking to each other via emails, faxes, and the old-fashioned telephone. You should expect your doctors to share information about you and your treatment. One way to make sure this happens is to let your doctor know whom you want copies of all your records sent to. This information is usually gathered at your first appointment with a cancer specialist. However, if you later think of another physician—your gynecologist for example—that you want kept 'in the loop,' let your doctor know.

You may be scheduling a large number of doctor visits, especially early in your treatment. If you feel overwhelmed, feel free to move an appointment to a more convenient date. For example, your medical oncologist may want you to come back for a follow-up visit a month after finishing chemotherapy. S/he wants to make sure that you're recovering from treatment. Of course, by now, you may be in the middle of radiation. Feel free to move your medical oncology appointment so it coincides with the conclusion of your radiation.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. You have to keep an updated list of who should and who should not get your medical records. If you find that there are a lot of doctors on your team, you may be able to stagger the visits. Make sure you are seen by one of your doctors at least every three months for the first few years.

For example, a month after radiation, see your radiation oncologist, and three months after that, see your surgeon. Three months after that, see your radiation oncologist again. During that time, if you also received chemotherapy, or if you are taking hormonal therapy, your medical oncologist will also want to see you. Talk to your doctors and ask them to help you coordinate a follow-up plan that ensures you're taken care of without spending your whole life in the hospital.
Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. Of course, if you're having problems tolerating your hormonal therapy, and if your doctor is considering a change, you may want to go to the medical oncologist more often. This is just one example of how your visits should be tailored to meet your needs, not the other way around.

On Wednesday, February 19, 2003, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called The Doctor-Patient Relationship. Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about how to find the right doctor for you, and how to create and maintain a good, open relationship with your doctor so you can be sure to get all the care and information you need.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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