Guide Posts of Strength
Click any sign on the guide post to read Key Information.Dr. Bernard ChinnasamiMedical Oncologist
Bernard Chinnasami, M.D.
Emerywood Hematology/Oncology,
High Point, NC

The diagnosis of cancer changes your life in the blink of an eye — not just for you the patient but for your family and friends as well. This is something I understood long before I decided to become an oncologist. I learned it firsthand when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in medical school.

My last two decades as a Medical Oncologist has more than validated this.

It has since been my dream that every patient should have a mentor — not one who is just matched with you from a disease standpoint but one who is paired with you by personal traits as well. I want all cancer patients to be able to access the information they need at their convenience — information that is meaningful to you and your family and friends. It is with this passion that I have started Guide Posts of Strength, Inc (GPS) where you can now find reliable information about all things cancer related.

Key information from GPS’s medical oncologist:

What is a medical oncologist? The medical oncologist is a physician who is specially trained and board certified in the treatment of cancer. He or she essentially coordinates care for a cancer patient and delivers chemotherapy, biological therapy and vaccine therapy. Your oncologist needs to be highly skilled as he or she actually navigates you and your entire family through the cancer journey.

Most of the time your cancer is detected by a surgeon or a radiologist – they are the doctors who obtain and examine the actual tissue. Once this tissue is obtained, the medical oncologist takes primary responsibility for your care and makes all further referrals about what treatments you need. Given the situation, it is extremely important to find a medical oncologist who meets your expectations.

Choosing an oncologist is one of the most important decisions you make as you embark on the cancer journey. You want an oncologist who communicates well with you and your family in a logical, empathetic manner.

You want – and deserve – an oncologist who upholds the fine balance of maintaining honesty and hope.

When selecting an oncologist, keep these issues in mind:

  • First and foremost, make sure your oncologist communicates well with you.
  • Choose a doctor you like. He or she will be helping you make some of the most important decisions of your life.
  • You will find oncologists in private practice and in academic settings. Which is right for you? Most of the time cancer care can be provided in a community setting – in fact, 70% of medical oncology care is coordinated in a private practice setting.
  • In a private practice setting, you have the advantage of receiving extremely professional and empathetic care in a community setting, and you have direct access to your doctor.
  • In the private setting your doctor is more likely to be in the office every day.
  • In an academic setting (such as a medical center that operates in conjunction with a medical school), your care will be delivered through multiple layers (attending doctors, resident, students, etc.). Your doctor may only be in the clinic a couple of days a week so if you get sick when he or she is not there, you will be seen by other doctors.
  • In certain situations, an academic institution is preferable. Academic centers usually have more access to multidisciplinary clinics and sometimes are better equipped to handle certain types of cancer such as acute leukemia.
  • How many physician extenders (physician assistants or nurse practitioners) does your oncologist have? Will you actually see the doctor when you need medical attention?
  • Where does your oncologist practice? With technology being so easy to deploy, most patients should be able to be treated close to home.

Ask Questions

Things to discuss with your medical oncologist:

  • What stage is your cancer?
  • What are your options for treatment?
  • What are the survival rates for your type and stage of cancer?
  • Ask your doctor for a timetable of what will be done when and what to expect. Having a pathway of care to follow takes away much of the mystery – and fear – out of cancer treatment.
  • When will lab work and scans be done and when can you expect the results?

Be Prepared

Visits to the oncologist can be overwhelming so prepare for each visit:

  • Write down your questions and concerns so you can discuss them with your doctor – it’s easy to forget what you want to discuss when you are in the exam room! Keep a notepad close to you at all times and jot down concerns as they come to mind. This will make your visit much more productive.
  • Take notes at your doctor’s appointments (or have someone with you to take notes for you).
  • Keep a list of your medications (type of medicine and dosage) with you and take this to all of your appointments.
  • Request copies of your records so you can maintain your own personal file as well. Most physicians give you a discharge sheet when you leave the office and this contains information about your health problems, medications, etc.
  • Also keep copies of the results of your scans and lab work. Doing this helps you be in control of your care.

Now that you have been diagnosed with cancer, it is imperative to take care of important legal work. Unfortunately the outcomes of cancer care are not always what we want them to be so it’s vital to make decisions about living wills, court statuses and last will and testaments while you are fully competent.

Your Care Team

Get to know the members of your care team. It’s important to have a good relationship not only with your doctor but the doctor’s nurse as well – they function as a team and a lot of information flows to you through the nurse.

Designate someone in your family to be the primary point of contact. It’s very difficult for your oncologist’s office to discuss your care with multiple people at different times. Having a single person as your main contact makes communications much easier and much more effective.

It is important to understand HIPAA rules require that you give the doctor’s office permission to be in communication with someone other than you, the patient.

Advice

While friends, family and acquaintances are usually well meaning, they can bombard you with cancer-related information and advice.

Always remember that most of this is biased advice. People most often share either very good experiences or very bad experiences. The people who have “standard” experiences often don’t talk a lot about it.

Realize that it is perfectly acceptable for you to “tune out” much of the advice that is given to you by people outside of your medical team.

Key Info Ask Questions Be Prepared Your Care Team Advice Links and Apps

 

Key Info

What is a medical oncologist? The medical oncologist is a physician who is specially trained and board certified in the treatment of cancer. He or she essentially coordinates care for a cancer patient and delivers chemotherapy, biological therapy and vaccine therapy. Your oncologist needs to be highly skilled as he or she actually navigates you and your entire family through the cancer journey.

Most of the time your cancer is detected by a surgeon or a radiologist – they are the doctors who obtain and examine the actual tissue. Once this tissue is obtained, the medical oncologist takes primary responsibility for your care and makes all further referrals about what treatments you need. Given the situation, it is extremely important to find a medical oncologist who meets your expectations.

Choosing an oncologist is one of the most important decisions you make as you embark on the cancer journey. You want an oncologist who communicates well with you and your family in a logical, empathetic manner.

You want – and deserve – an oncologist who upholds the fine balance of maintaining honesty and hope.

When selecting an oncologist, keep these issues in mind:

  • First and foremost, make sure your oncologist communicates well with you.
  • Choose a doctor you like. He or she will be helping you make some of the most important decisions of your life.
  • You will find oncologists in private practice and in academic settings. Which is right for you? Most of the time cancer care can be provided in a community setting – in fact, 70% of medical oncology care is coordinated in a private practice setting.
  • In a private practice setting, you have the advantage of receiving extremely professional and empathetic care in a community setting, and you have direct access to your doctor.
  • In the private setting your doctor is more likely to be in the office every day.
  • In an academic setting (such as a medical center that operates in conjunction with a medical school), your care will be delivered through multiple layers (attending doctors, resident, students, etc.). Your doctor may only be in the clinic a couple of days a week so if you get sick when he or she is not there, you will be seen by other doctors.
  • In certain situations, an academic institution is preferable. Academic centers usually have more access to multidisciplinary clinics and sometimes are better equipped to handle certain types of cancer such as acute leukemia.
  • How many physician extenders (physician assistants or nurse practitioners) does your oncologist have? Will you actually see the doctor when you need medical attention?
  • Where does your oncologist practice? With technology being so easy to deploy, most patients should be able to be treated close to home.

Ask Questions

Things to discuss with your medical oncologist:

  • What stage is your cancer?
  • What are your options for treatment?
  • What are the survival rates for your type and stage of cancer?
  • Ask your doctor for a timetable of what will be done when and what to expect. Having a pathway of care to follow takes away much of the mystery – and fear – out of cancer treatment.
  • When will lab work and scans be done and when can you expect the results?

Be Prepared

Visits to the oncologist can be overwhelming so prepare for each visit:

  • Write down your questions and concerns so you can discuss them with your doctor – it’s easy to forget what you want to discuss when you are in the exam room! Keep a notepad close to you at all times and jot down concerns as they come to mind. This will make your visit much more productive.
  • Take notes at your doctor’s appointments (or have someone with you to take notes for you).
  • Keep a list of your medications (type of medicine and dosage) with you and take this to all of your appointments.
  • Request copies of your records so you can maintain your own personal file as well. Most physicians give you a discharge sheet when you leave the office and this contains information about your health problems, medications, etc.
  • Also keep copies of the results of your scans and lab work. Doing this helps you be in control of your care.

Now that you have been diagnosed with cancer, it is imperative to take care of important legal work. Unfortunately the outcomes of cancer care are not always what we want them to be so it’s vital to make decisions about living wills, court statuses and last will and testaments while you are fully competent.

Your Care Team

Get to know the members of your care team. It’s important to have a good relationship not only with your doctor but the doctor’s nurse as well – they function as a team and a lot of information flows to you through the nurse.

Designate someone in your family to be the primary point of contact. It’s very difficult for your oncologist’s office to discuss your care with multiple people at different times. Having a single person as your main contact makes communications much easier and much more effective.

It is important to understand HIPAA rules require that you give the doctor’s office permission to be in communication with someone other than you, the patient.

Advice

While friends, family and acquaintances are usually well meaning, they can bombard you with cancer-related information and advice.

Always remember that most of this is biased advice. People most often share either very good experiences or very bad experiences. The people who have “standard” experiences often don’t talk a lot about it.

Realize that it is perfectly acceptable for you to “tune out” much of the advice that is given to you by people outside of your medical team.

Links / Apps

 


Guide Posts of Strength