How to Choose a Doctor

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Considerations when choosing a treatment center and doctor

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Hospitals and Freestanding Facilities

Cancer is a disease that requires specialized treatment and choosing a treatment facility is an important consideration for getting the best medical care. You can obtain high quality care in many different settings:

  • Hospitals and campus-oriented facilities can provide greater access to specialists in one building
  • Freestanding facilities in your community may offer equal access to advanced technologies and specialists in a more “family-oriented” environment and may be closer to your home

Sometimes, when tests point towards a cancer diagnosis but there is still uncertainty, your primary physician will refer you to a cancer specialist to perform additional tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the stage of cancer.

There are many different oncology specialties, each of which require different skills and expertise. For example, Medical Oncologists are experts in the use of chemotherapy; Radiation oncologists specialize in the use of external or internal radiation; and Surgeons focus on surgical techniques. Physicians who are board certified have received advanced education and experience in their area of specialty. In addition to their credentials, you may also want to consider how much experience the physician has in treating your kind of cancer.

If your healthcare team has selected a treatment that must be administered daily, you may want to consider selecting a facility that is convenient with respect to distance from your home and transportation, which also has expert clinicians.

Reaching Out for Information

Before requesting a consultation, talk to your primary doctor and ask for information about your disease. Find out what kind of cancer you have, its size and location, where it started, and if it has spread. Ask if your cancer is considered slow growing or aggressive. There are many different kinds of treatments available today to treat most types of cancers. Learn more about the available treatment options for your cancer, the success rate of each treatment, and the side effects that can be expected with each type of treatment.

Some people find it hard to tell their doctors that they would like a second opinion. You should be aware that it is always reasonable to seek a second opinion from a specialist and most doctors are comfortable with the request. In fact, you can ask your primary doctor for a referral to obtain a second opinion from an oncology specialist, such as a surgeon, medical oncologist or radiation oncologist.

Finally, talk with family and friends and surround yourself with a close circle of support. Bring someone with you to your doctor appointments. You will be anxious during these meetings and may not be able to retain all the information that is given to you. It will help to have another set of ears, someone that can take notes for you and who will be your advocate during this stressful period.