THE BLOG
09/16/2014 05:04 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2014

6 Signs That It May Be Time to Fire Your Oncologist

Daniele Carotenuto Photography via Getty Images

We all know there is no such thing as a perfect doctor. We also know that no doctor always says the right thing, no doctor knows all the answers, and no doctor can always be there for us whenever we want them to be. With that said, there are instances when you may need to find a doctor that is better suited for you.

So how do you know when it's time to make a switch?

1. Your oncologist doesn't think you should get a second opinion.

Second opinions are extremely important. They will either confirm what you've already been told or present different options to weigh.

Although most doctors welcome another physician's input, there are some that do not. Those doctors may even get frustrated or angry when you suggest talking to another professional. If your oncologist doesn't support your getting a second opinion, then SWITCH doctors.

Remember, getting additional opinions may be required at different points in your care -- not just at the initial diagnosis.

2. You don't feel comfortable talking to your oncologist.

Being best friends with your oncologist is not required. You don't even have to like your doctor. But you do have to feel comfortable talking to them about anything related to your health.

If you are too embarrassed to tell your doctor something, get over it. On the other hand, if you're hesitant to raise concerns or ask about things you've read on the Internet for fear of the lecture you'll receive, then SWITCH oncologists. A good oncologist appreciates a knowledgeable, well-informed patient and is receptive to such conversations.

3. Your oncologist keeps you in the dark about anything related to your treatment or speaks in medical jargon that's difficult to comprehend.

A successful doctor-patient relationship requires 100 percent honesty. Doctors must be candid with their patients about topics ranging from the goal of treatment to the pros and cons of each treatment option to test results even if they are unfavorable. And doctors must have these conversations using simple terms that the patient understands.

If you feel that your oncologist is not being honest with you or does not take the time to explain complicated medical jargon or answer your questions in a way that satisfies you, then SWITCH doctors. Your health is far too important for you to be misled, uninformed or confused.

4. The office staff is difficult to work with or unprofessional.

This may sound trivial, as the office staff is not directly responsible for your medical care. However, telephone calls need to be returned promptly. Test results must be easily obtainable. Appointments need to be conveniently scheduled. Insurance claims must be accurately filed. The people at the front desk should be somewhat pleasant.

If you feel that the office staff is difficult to work with or unprofessional, then talk to your doctor. If the situation doesn't improve, you may want to consider making the SWITCH.

5. Your doctor does not keep abreast of the latest advances in cancer care.

While many doctors are knowledgeable about the latest advances in treating cancer, there are those oncologists who are not. Has your oncologist explained to you that no two cancers are alike? Has your doctor spoken to you about molecular profiling and tumor testing? If you've been diagnosed with melanoma, has your doctor spoken to you about a recent FDA-approved immunotherapy regimen?

With each passing day, researchers learn more about cancer and how to better fight this disease. New treatments are morphing some cancers into a manageable disease rather than a death sentence. If your oncologist is not up-to-date on the latest and greatest advances in cancer care and personalized or precision medicine, then make the SWITCH to a new oncologist.

6. Your doctor is not a "realistic optimistic."

At the end of the day, fighting a diagnosis of cancer requires hope. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, waiting for test results, and so many other aspects of this disease can mentally and physically beat even the toughest of people down. Hope that good health will once again return is what gets people back on their feet, ready to take on another day.

Although oncologists must be honest and realistic with their patients, they can still be hopeful and never give up. Even with a grim diagnosis, there is always hope that a person can beat the odds. Personally, I will never again work with a doctor who has not had a patient that beat the odds. Had I known what I know now, I would have made the SWITCH solely based on this point.

The bottom line... After being diagnosed with cancer, even once a clean bill of health is given, your oncologist will continue to follow and screen you for many years to come. This relationship is a long-term partnership and should be viewed as such.

You deserve to get the best possible care from your doctor(s). And if you are not happy with the care you are receiving for whatever reason, you have the right to fire that doctor and find another provider.

Patients who take an active role in their health care tend to have better outcomes. So take an active role in your health care even if it means making difficult choices or going outside of your comfort zone. Your life may depend on it.