Coping with a cancer diagnosis is tremendously difficult. The news can bring on a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Once you have gotten over the initial shock, your focus shifts to fighting the disease with the best treatment possible.
But where do you begin?
With your health at stake, not just any doctor will do. You only want the best. Figuring that out might be may seem overwhelming, but following a process can help you make the best possible choice. Learning factors to consider and steps to take can help you pick the perfect healthcare provider.
Determine the Type You Need
Your treatment may call for more than one doctor. Medical oncologists handle treatments such as chemotherapy. Surgical oncologists perform biopsies and remove tumors. Radiation oncologists perform radiation treatments. Your primary care provider can help you understand what you need.
Check Your Network
There can be a major difference in your costs between an in-network and out-of-network provider. Make sure that any doctor you consider is in your health insurance provider network.
Find a Specialist
Along with the standard educational requirements for oncologists, subspecialists must obtain additional education in their fields. Check with your hospitals referral service, your health insurance provider list or the National Cancer Institute to find a doctor who specializes in the type of cancer you have.
Look at Locations
Consider the proximity of the oncologist’s office to your home and workplace. Will it be convenient for you to make multiple trips to and from this location? Is the hospital the doctor uses relatively close to you, as well?
Find out whether the oncologist participates in clinical trials, especially if you would like to be involved in any. Even if you are not sure you do, choosing a physician who is informed about the latest research is definitely beneficial.
Think of the “Little” Things
No detail is unimportant if it matters to you. Think about factors that will help you feel more comfortable and confident in your treatment. For instance, the hospital the doctor uses, second languages spoken and even the age or gender of your oncologist might be helpful.
Make sure any doctor you consider is board certified in oncology. Find out whether the oncologist has received advanced training. Check to see if the physician has been involved in any malpractice lawsuits. Discover how long he or she has been in practice, as well.
Read Ratings and Reviews
Numerous resources can give you evaluations of doctors. Hospitals and healthcare networks often publish patient survey results or statistical findings. Websites, search engines and social media will provide ratings, as well.
Seek Trusted Sources
Word of mouth can be one of the best ways to find a terrific oncologist. Ask friends and family members who have undergone treatment for their recommendations. Support groups and local branches of cancer foundations are also a valuable resource.
Look at the Team
Find out if the office of an oncologist you are considering provides other support staff. This could include registered nurses, nutritionists, social workers, counselors and others who may be able to offer additional support throughout your treatment.
Interview the Doctor
After you have narrowed your choices, make an appointment with the oncologist who stands out the most. Following your appointment, think about the considerations that are important to you. These might include the oncologist’s:
- Communication style
- Listening skills
- Ability to explain details
- Patience answering your questions
- Suggestions of various treatment options
- Consideration of your concerns and preferences
Get a Second Opinion
If the first oncologist you see is not a good fit or even if you have minor doubts and concerns, don’t be afraid to try a different doctor. You have every right to be comfortable and confident as you begin treatment. Above all, trust your instincts and follow your heart. You deserve the best care possible.