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Can you get a call through to YOUR doctor?

Posts: 245
Joined: May 2012

I sometimes can't even get through to leave a message for my Oncologist. I go to the best there is in Cleveland Ohio,and when I call sometimes it keeps going back to the recording that they care about my call and stay on the line but after about 15 minutes it says to try later. And when I do get through and leave a message sometimes they don't even get back to me.

I just don't understand how to call them and find help. I feel that was a major problem with continuing chemo...no support. The onc was mad that I didn't call when my mouth was burnt up and the mouthwash didn't work, and when I stood in front of the cabinet of pills and cried because I didn't know what to take from all of those meds. But if it takes hours to get a response how can you find help?

Does anyone else have this problem, or am I just cursed?!

hope4thebest's picture
Posts: 108
Joined: Aug 2012

They are never there when we need them yet tell us to 'call me anytime'.... Usually there is a nurse, or someone else available and sometimes they can be helpful. In my case, I connected with one of the nurses, and also a doctor in a different dept and I will call on them if I am in need. I can also email them, and that is effective. My onc dr is never available at a specific number, however in your case, actively taking chemo, I think they should provide you with a 24 hr calling option, in addition to normal office hrs. Get a few different contact numbers, keep trying. They are busy, but, after while call them back. I take do relaxation breathing before I talk to some of these people because it can be so stressful. If it gets too frustrating, have someone else call for you. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Posts: 245
Joined: May 2012

is when you have the least ability to keep trying. That is what the onc said too...you tried for hours, why didn't you try for days? Huh? I was surprised. I was so sick I couldn't even stand to be on hold, let alone keep trying to get through. But I guess they have so many of us to take care of they can't do everything; they are only human. Still I worry that my case has fallen through the cracks.

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

I have never, ever had this problem with my onc (and I have been a patient of his for 25 years), but I did have it with my primary.

When I had an intestinal infection a few months ago, I landed in the ER and was told I had a bacterial infection and given antibiotics. I then had a severe reaction to cipro. My husband kept trying to get in touch with my primary and never could.

To make a long story short, I "fired" my primary and found a new one. Boy am I ever happier! The new guy seems to take my calls in a timely fashion and, when I ended up in the hospital with a cat bite, he began rounding on me before I was out of the ER. Wow, what a difference!

Since then, I have had 3 doctors tell me that my previous primary was overbooked and had the reputation for being unavailable.

So, I guess what I am saying is, if you can't communicate with your physician when you really and truly need him/her, it may be time for a new doc. First, before giving up on this doc, I would tell him what you have told us and ask him how you can communicate with someone if you really do have a problem. See if he is willing and able to fix the problem. If not, then maybe it is time to move on. Good luck!

Posts: 2515
Joined: May 2009

I guess I have been very lucky with reaching my oncologist and PC of 26 years.... when needed.....my calls are always returned promptly, the same day....as a matter of fact, my oncologist gave us his cell number...last year I was in a clinical trial and the second cycle of it put me down for 10 days....my Oncologist was in Israel....his office contacted him via email and he called me 3 different times to check on me....

My advice to those who have a problem should speak directly to the physician.....let him/her know what a problem it is...I worked for a doctor for years...the girls in the front office were given strict instruction that they represented his practice and all calls and messages were promptly brought to his attention...I worked directly with the doctor...and I got blamed for what they perceived as over booking ( I had nothing to do with the front office) to not being enough parking! lol.......my standard reply " Please tell the doctor when he comes in...he needs to know his patients concerns and he's the boss!....some physicians are unaware of what goes on and unless he knows, problems won't or can't be resolved.....

Just my two cents!
Hugs, Nancy

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2791
Joined: Jun 2010

I had similar problems when I was in treatment. I finally realized I could get more prompt attention from my primary care physician and she always, always saw me when I could not get help in oncology. My oncologist really got on my #*!$list when another patient (who I was helpin as her peer navigator) had serious issues. She got in a tiff with the oncology nurse so refused to speak with her, but could not - not for days on end, not ever, get a direct call back from our oncologist in spite of daily phone calls, emails, and apparently even contact from the surgeon. She never ever returned her call. It was awful and I'll never forget it. She changed oncologists. I almost did, too, but didn't because I'm well and I'm established with her and I do think I trust her clinical judgement. I don't know what I'd do if I had a recurrence, so I just won't do that.

So my suggestion to you is to call your primary care physician if you need help and can't get it in oncology. Just because chemotherapy might be the cause of the problem, probably doesn't mean only oncology can deal with them. And, if needed, your pcp can act on your behalf to get you in to oncology (or the hospital), will talk to the oncologist, or do whatever is necessary. The woman I mention above finally called her pcp, he talked her off the ledge and immediately got her established with another oncologist. It was really awful. As if having cancer wasn't enough!

You've really had such a rough time with this stupid treatment. You are nearing the end thank God!


New Flower
Posts: 4299
Joined: Aug 2009

I go to a big research university and communications have been a problem during my first time around. My PCP was always my supporter helping with side effects and reaching out to my oncologist. Since that I changed doctors and stay in touch with my current oncologist by email.
My experice is that big institutions have problems with messages , returning calls, scheduling.
Rebecca please talk to your doctor and tell about problems in direct manner , make your doc aware of luck of support and discipline.

Posts: 245
Joined: May 2012

My company keeps changing insurance companies and when I finally got an appointment last February with another new PCP in yet another list of In-Network doctors, it was the first and only time I saw him and that was to ask him about this lump in my breast. Should he be the one I call? He only saw me once. It never occurred to me to call him, but now that you mention it, it does sound like a plan. I wonder if they would get me in to see him or if he would talk to me over the phone?

I am seeing the breast surgeon today and will let him know about the communication problems. John is going to the meeting too (a first)

Hugging my sisters!

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