Q. I'm starting to have second thoughts about my oncologist. She started off having more time to answer my questions, but over time, I feel like I can barely get a phone call returned. I don't want to be a pushy patient, but I also am becoming more and more frustrated. What should I do?

A.

Your frustration is understandable. Many doctors struggle with managing time due to the increased demands on their time from patients and other responsibilities. However, you should be able to feel that you are receiving the best medical care possible, including answers to your questions. Remember, the doctor is only one member of your health care team. If you are not able to communicate directly to him or her, try talking to the nurse, nurse practitioner, or social worker associated with your oncologist’s practice. At the very least, a member of the team can approach the doctor with your questions and relay answers to you directly. Prioritize and state your questions concisely. Ask how they prefer you to communicate your questions and concerns—for instance, some doctors may prefer email over a phone call.

Questions will come up outside of your scheduled appointments and it’s a good idea to prioritize them. If the problem is urgent, call your doctor immediately. If it isn’t, keep an ongoing list of questions for your next appointment. Make your questions clear, and make every word count.

Communication is a two-way street. It’s important to be direct about the issues you have with your doctor. If you are still not satisfied with your doctor (or medical team), you have the right to change. You can ask family members or friends for recommendations and explore the doctor’s communication style specifically. Remember to be consumer wise—your good health may depend on it.

If you are still feeling frustrated, CancerCare has experienced social workers who can help you more effectively communicate with your doctor. Call us at 1-800-8130 HOPE (4673) or email info@cancercare.org.