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Doctor, Doctor: Four common myths about cancer doctors

Network - Spring 2013

This issue, we’re reprinting a post that appeared in MD Anderson’s Cancerwise blog. Its author is Nikesh Jasani, M.D., an assistant professor in the Department of General Oncology and medical director of the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Katy.

When I tell people I’m an oncologist, they frequently assume my job is depressing. The opposite is true.

Yes, I have to deliver difficult and sometimes sad news to patients and their families. But I also see many patients who go through their cancer care with incredible bravery and live full lives afterwards.

My patients inspire me every day. In getting to know them, I often hear that they have certain perceptions of me and other physicians.

First and foremost, I want my patients to know that I care for them and am fully committed to doing everything I can to help make their cancer treatment a success.

Patients sometimes have misconceptions, a few of which I’d like to address.

Misconception No. 1:

We don’t want to be bothered with small stuff.

Even small, seemingly minor side effects can mean something. Always let your physician know what’s going on, how you’re feeling, what you’re experiencing and if you have any new symptoms. We want to know what’s going on with you every step of the way.

Misconception No. 2:

We don’t collaborate.

In my role as medical director of the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Katy, I see constant collaboration. We discuss every patient and his or her treatment plan. I often have discussions with physicians outside of MD Anderson who've treated the patient before me, or while he or she is under my care. Physicians must work as a team to deliver the kind of care our patients expect and deserve.

Misconception No. 3:

We don’t care about our patients’ time.

I’m aware that physicians run late. As an oncologist, scheduling my day is extremely difficult. Cancer patients often have many questions and concerns, and it’s my responsibility to address them. Sometimes a seemingly routine appointment can go much longer than planned, simply because a patient needs more of my time for a variety of reasons.

I encourage my patients to come to every appointment with a list of questions, and I’m committed to answering everything they ask. No cancer patient should leave an appointment with more questions than answers. Sometimes physician-patient conversations last longer than expected, which can cause scheduling challenges.

Misconception No. 4:

We don’t like you to get a second opinion.

There is nothing offensive about a patient telling me that he or she wants a second opinion. Any time you are apprehensive about a diagnosis or a recommended treatment plan, it’s perfectly appropriate to consult with another physician. Patients should listen to their instincts and do what’s best for them.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center