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Changing Medical Oncologists in Same Clinic?

mumuriri Member Posts: 26

I had my first meeting with an MO that my hospital assigned to me and it was at most a lukewarm experience. I had to wait an hour past appointment time (past closing time, the reception desk people left before I even got to see my MO) because she had pushed back her appointments for 2 earlier people who went to the wrong buildings and were over an hour late for her, so at this point I was already tired and probably overly-sensitive. She seemed very competent in terms of medical analyses (read her report) but she was impatient when I got teary about my fears of recurrence (she said "you're basically curable, why are you crying?" re: hopefully stage 1 grade 2 diagnosis. This was 2 weeks after my diagnosis so I was still prone to small fits of crying when talking about my cancer to people especially when thinking about long-term (20+ years) recurrence rates/survival since I'm relatively young. She then mentioned how she had patients that she had to talk to whose breasts were so filled with cancer that treatment was ASAP (comparing my relative "easy" diagnosis).

What made me uncomfortable is that she remarked that she didn't understand why I even had the appointment before surgery (the patient coordinator set up my appointments, so I had no control or knowledge on which doctors I was supposed to be seeing after my initial biopsy cancer diagnosis) and then she suggested that I could see an MO closer to home at a local hospital satellite office -- hospital main building is about 1.5 hrs away from where I live. I am not sure if my feeling that she didn't want me as a patient is insecurity or based on fact from this. I looked up the MOs at that satellite office and none of them are part of the breast oncology department like she is.

When I read her report on my visit, she had also gotten my ethnicity wrong (She put down a totally different Asian ethnicity than what I had told her), my cat's name (not important since I guess it was an attempt at chitchat).

Am I being too picky? She has a lot of really good reviews though about 10% of them talk about her being dismissive / unwelcoming. I know it's not a popularity contest and I should be more concerned about the competence of my MO than her bedside manners, but I didn't feel 100% comfortable with her unlike my surgeon, but that could just have been because it was first meeting and she thought it was an unnecessary one (I thought it would be good for Q&A about my concerns about treatment post-surgery but she was kind of dismissive about my concerns about radiation and Tamoxifen). Should I give it more time?

If I switch oncologists it will be at the same clinic. Will this MO be offended if I do? What do I even say for switching, and to whom?


  • lw422
    lw422 Member Posts: 1,411

    If you are uncomfortable with your doctor, by all means find another one. Or perhaps you just got off to a bad start with this woman and need to clear the air. Doctors often have to walk a narrow path between empathy and not being emotionally involved, but that certainly doesn't preclude human kindness. Having a cancer diagnosis is a very emotional time and a good medical team will help support the patient both physically and emotionally. Many competent doctors have zero bedside manner so a patient should decided how important that facet of care is in the grand scheme of things. If you decide to switch, remember that changing doctors is quite common and your doctor will likely not give it another thought. You don't need the burden of worrying about this doctor's feelings, so do what you feel is right for YOU.

    I'm sorry that you find yourself here, and that you have had a poor experience with your MO. Take care.

  • seeq
    seeq Member Posts: 1,130

    I have switched MOs myself, and if you really don't like this person, you should change, but....

    I would give her another try. You saw her once, at the end of a very long day, which happened because she lest two people come to her appts very late due to a mix-up - if that's not compassion, I don't know what is. She may not be the warm fuzzy you thought you wanted that day, but that isn't everyone's nature. I'd go for competence over hand-holding every time. As far as the suggestion for a doctor close to your home, she may be trying to make just be things easier for you if your treatment plan is straightforward.

    I wish you the best of luck in your treatment and recovery.

  • lillyishere
    lillyishere Member Posts: 775

    Sounds like the experience I had with my first MO. She was exactly the same. I felt she dismissed me and I didn't like the feeling. I did change to another MO at the same hospital/floor/ department and of course, they are colleagues. Now that I rethink this, almost 3 years ago, I understand her more than I did at that time. These doctors are scientists and stage I for them doesn't bring much interest to their research. I think you should give her a couple more tries before you switch. Also, see how much you like the NP that supports your MO since you will be alternating MO and NP visits.

  • bcincolorado
    bcincolorado Member Posts: 4,711

    I ended up with 2 different MO in the same clinic. The first one I like a lot but when he retired I was moved to another another in the clinic who did a lot of breast cancer patients. The first one was male and the second a woman. The woman I had a harder time adjusting to at first a lot. She questioned some of the treatment options the first one made and she would have been more aggressive on some things in my treatment plan. Her bedside manner was very hard to get used to as well.

    You have to be able to talk to your doctor and ask questions as well. Is the doctor communicating well or if you have questions later do you have a way to ask them and get an answer? I have a portal I can log in and ask questions and get answers back or if I medication refills or tests done have the orders sent or confirm they received the tests I did and got them into my file even. If the doctor does not answer the nurse will get back me.

  • mumuriri
    mumuriri Member Posts: 26

    Thank you all for your replies.

    Re: lw422 and seeq,
    I probably should see her at least one more time before making my decision (that would be post-surgery). She seemed like a very knowledgeable doctor, I am just at this point afraid of asking questions because she seemed so dismissive initially, but that may change once full diagnosis after surgery has been done. I would definitely prefer a doctor who is very competent with not-so-great bedside manners, than one who is sympathetic but isn't as good at coming up with the optimal treatment plan.

    Re: lilyishere,
    Thank you for your experience regarding switching MOs -- I went back and re-read my MO's report, and a week out it seems less snarky than I originally thought. I'm still a bit peeved she got my ethnicity wrong though, for some reason (I very definitely told her what country my grandparents are from when she had asked).

    re: bcincolorado,
    Her responsiveness to my queries is a good point -- right now, we don't really have anything to discuss since I'm still pre-surgery (they delayed it to do more scans), so I'll wait and see how she is when we have more to discuss. Thanks!

  • quietgirl
    quietgirl Member Posts: 165

    You know it’s okay if you don’t see her one more time. While I’m a firm believer in giving people a second chance and understand that everyone has an off day. How we handle our emotional state is different for each of us and your MO is usually going to be a long term commitment, personally I want someone who I feel values the stage I’m at without making me feel less than because I’m concerned worried etc. So on a first meeting even if a physician thinks a patient is having useless worry, the expectation would be that they would not convey a judgement such as why are you crying. Again maybe the patient before you which caused the delay was emotional draining and someone who is at a more advanced stage then you but that doesn’t mean that your concerns should matter less. It’s okay not to give someone a second chance

    Lots of people see MO before they have surgery so really that shouldn’t have been an issue for her. There is a patient coordinator for a reason, so it’s okay to make use of them and get set up with someone else after surgery. Here is a suggestion (which you can take or leave), if you have the ability through an online portal or email to send her a message correcting your ethnicity, and see if you get a response. That way it is one less thing and you can see how you feel about how she responds. If you did not feel comfortable enough to ask any of your questions during a visit or you feel like you are being dismissed then no matter how good she is, you probably won’t feel like your getting the quality of care you deserve. Again I’m not telling you not to give her a second chance, just don’t feel like you have to.

  • TwoForOneSpecial
    TwoForOneSpecial Member Posts: 35

    I also changed doctors within the same practice early in my treatment. The intake forms I filled out asked how I wanted to receive info from my doctor, as in do I just want someone to give me minimal info and tell me what to do vs. provide me with extensive info and details. I chose the latter, and the Dr. paid no attention. He apparently felt that I didn't need to know that my genetic testing showed some mutations since they were of "unknown siginficance", so he just told me I had not mutations. Then when I met the surgeon he started talking about dire predictions based on genetic mutations and I freaked out...

    I had been assigned a "nurse navigator", so I called her and said I need to work with a Dr. who has good communication skills and will give me all the info, and she recommended a different MO. He's been great, and I feel much better about working with him. In part he may be really good because he survived a diagnosed terminal cancer when he was in college, and says that his doctors had very poor communication - he feels the need to do things differently.

    This may be a long-term relationship with your MO, so you want to work with someone you are comfortable with.

    Will the other doctor be offended? My guess is that they'll never notice... if you've seen her only once, she's probably not going to be wondering what happened to you. I don't think my original MO would have recognized me even if I had run into him again.

    Good luck!


  • DaughterOfBarb
    DaughterOfBarb Member Posts: 29

    I changed oncologist within the same practice group after my initial consult with the first one. We just did not click and I knew as soon as I walked out of the appointment that I’d be switching. I actually consulted with her before my surgery too because I've navigated cancer as a caregiver for several family members and saw no need to wait until after surgery to consult, which is the norm here. I’m glad I did because I may have felt pressure to stick with her in the time crunch after surgery in the panic to just move forward. I have mad respect for the group (both my late parents were patients there, but their oncologist retired), so I wanted to stay with them. Fortunately, my consult with a different oncologist in the group went great. And his PA was my parents oncologist’s PA and she remembers them *love*! I’m so glad I switched. If you are that far off base, I wouldn’t even bother with a second appointment if you have other options. It’s so important to have a good relationship with your doctors.

  • sarahnh
    sarahnh Member Posts: 105

    mumuriri I go to Dana Farber, and I did change my MO after my first appointment. I liked her, felt she was probably a good doctor, but after seeing her I received a couple personal recommendations for a different MO there.

    It was a hassle because, at least for breast cancer, hospitals don't like to allow patients to get multiple opinions. However DF did tell me they allow a "one time" transfer of care.

    I do sort of wonder if other cancers are treated this way, or just breast cancer...

    If you want, I'm happy to tell you what I know about both MOs I've seen at Dana Farber. You're welcome to PM me!


  • beenthere2019
    beenthere2019 Member Posts: 2

    I think you have every right to switch. You only met this doctor once you don't owe him or her anything. You owe it to yourself to be comfortable with your doctor. Your oncologist is going to be a long-term relationship, so you need to have one you feel comfortable with and have confidence in.

    My MO is part scientist, part Dr. and yet she is all human. She hasn't set her human side at the door. I go in with a list of questions and she says, ok read off your questions and she addresses my every concern. I want a smart, talented Dr. who is aware they are dealing with an emotional human being. It shouldn't have to be a choice between talented and kindness. Good luck, you need to be your own advocate.