Emergencies and Phone Calls

Guidelines for contacting your VCI team

If you are experiencing a true, life-threatening emergency, call 911. Call your Virginia Cancer Institute office only after you have made arrangements to get to an emergency room, or have the emergency room call us when they are able to.

Our nurses return calls during business hours as time permits. If the matter is urgent, please tell our phone operator so that the nurse can confer with you in the timeliest manner possible. Please understand that calls for test results and prescription refills will be returned after urgent patient needs are met.

We ask that you remember that physicians’ schedules are long and demanding. It may be late in the afternoon after all patients are seen, or sometimes the following day, before non-emergency phone calls are returned.

If you feel you need us, we want to hear from you. Please use this guide to determine when you should make your phone call:

Call Anytime—Day or Night—If

• You have fever of 100.5 degrees F. or higher.

• You have uncontrollable nausea or diarrhea.

• Your pain medication is not working.

• You are experiencing chest pains or shortness of breath.

• You are experiencing severe shaking or chills.

• You are bleeding from the nose or gums.

• You have blood in the urine.

• You have black, tarry bowel movement.

• You are experiencing severe diarrhea.

• You are experiencing constipation with intense abdominal cramping.

• You are experiencing changes in your vision or hearing.

• You have increased bruising or pinpoint red or purple spots anywhere on the body.


Call During Regular Office Hours (8:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday)

• If you have questions about your medication, treatment or side effects.

• If you’re having nutrition problems.

• If you need a prescription refilled.

o Please call by 3 p.m. and have your pharmacy’s phone number.
o For narcotics such as Percocet®, MS Contin® or OxyContin, plan to either come into the office for a written prescription or allow 5 days for the written prescription to be mailed. By law, your pharmacy must have a written prescription. No narcotic prescriptions can be written on weekends.
• If you’ve had lab tests or scans, please know that results usually take:
o Scans: 48–72 hours.
o Tumor markers: 72 hours.
o Bone marrow: 7–10 days.
o Pathology reports: 3–5 days.
• If you’ve heard about a new treatment.
• If you notice new numbness or tingling of fingers or toes.


Never hesitate to call us for any problem that is important to you. If a certain medication is not working, call and let us know. Chances are, we can prescribe or suggest something to make you more comfortable.

Virginia Cancer Institute Patient Information Brochure