Q: I was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago, and we've recently moved. Even though I have a new primary care doc, I don't feel she understands all of my medical history. What should I do?—Lauren E., Hyde Park, New York
A: There are 15.5 million cancer survivors in America, and around 33 percent of office visits for cancer are handled by primary care physicians. Unfortunately, research shows they're often unprepared to do the job.
A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at 12 advanced primary care practices selected from a national registry of workforce innovators. One would think that this group would be better than average in paying attention to patient needs. However, the Rutgers University researchers found that NONE of the practices had what's known as a "comprehensive survivorship care program." The program should include checking for cancer reoccurrence (with scans, blood tests and exams), monitoring long-term effects of radiation and chemotherapy treatment (such as atherosclerosis, joint or bone issues, organ damage, impact on the endocrine system and hormones, cognitive changes, neuropathy, fatigue) and assessing psychological well-being.
There is a push to improve survivors' follow-up care, but it's essential that you take charge.
First step: Have medical records made accessible to your new primary care doctor (most electronic medical records are shareable if you allow them to be), and get a digital and a hard copy for yourself. Include information from your cancer diagnosis, surgery, treatment and post-treatment follow-up with your oncologist and oncological surgeon, plus your records from your former primary care doctor.
Second step: Contact a local cancer treatment center. Ask about scheduling a follow-up visit with an oncologist, and inquire about cancer rehabilitation services they offer. If you make an appointment, have your records transferred there, too.
Third step: Download info from the American Society of Clinical Oncology at ASCO.org; search for "Survivorship Patient & Family Resources." They offer ASCO Cancer Treatment Summaries and Survivorship Care Plans—forms for patients and doctors to complete together. Bring these to your new primary care doctor, and set up your own survivorship care program.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at
(c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.