Receiving Your Routine HealthCare

As Cancer Thrivers, you still need to have routine healthcare no matter how often you see your healthcare team for cancer-related treatment.  When you are not feeling well with any day-to-day concern, it is often difficult to know which doctor you should see.  Deciding which of your doctors to see can be confusing and sometimes a little emotional! 

In a study that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (September 1, 2017) Lauren Wallner at the University of Michigan found that 21percent of women treated for ductal carcinoma in situ said that they prefer to see their oncologist for routine and preventive care as well as for their oncology treatment.  This finding is probably because many of us tend to bond strongly with our primary oncologist.  Transitioning, especially when we are in the post-treatment period of our cancer care, from our oncologist back to our primary care provider is difficult.

Not only do we struggle with deciding which doctor to see, but research has found that primary care doctors seem to become less involved in the cancer thriver’s day to day healthcare.    An article by Shawna Hudson published in Jama Internal Medicine (September 25, 2017) found that primary care physicians often felt that they had lost touch with their patients, or as one physician said, “ they disappeared into oncology.”  Both Cancer Thrivers and our primary care physicians become disconnected from each other. 

What about you and your primary care doctor, have you disengaged from each other during your cancer care?

The solution that you should consider is to create a “shared care system” where you make sure that your oncologist and your primary care physician both see you regularly.  Since you will not need the intense relationship with your oncologist forever, you do not want to get lost “in oncology” to your primary care doctor.  Making a concerted effort to establish a “shared care system” will mean that you will be able to go to the proper doctor for the right reason without feeling any consternation, apprehension or awkwardness.  It will also mean that all your doctors are up to date on your issues so they can effectively deliver to you the highest quality of care.

What Doctor To See When

Cancer Thrivers need a Thrivorship Plan.  A good Thrivorship plan can help you know what health concerns should direct you to what doctor.  

As a general rule of thumb you should see your oncologist for:

·     Scheduled checkups specific to your cancer treatment;

·     Side effects from your cancer or its treatments;

·     New concerns you develop about your cancer like lumps, skin changes and bleeding.

As a general rule of thumb, you should see your primary care physician for:

·     Preventive care, vaccinations, blood pressure checks, diabetes and cholesterol checks and other cancer screening;

·     Needed care related to any heart issues, diabetes treatment, rashes unless resulting from the cancer treatment;

·     General illnesses like a cold, the flu or for minor injuries.

Your general health will be much better if you can integrate your routine healthcare with your cancer care.