Sunday, November 4, 2007

Six Tips for Choosing a Doctor and Getting High-quality Care

If you’re like most people who have been diagnosed with cancer, you want the best care possible from the best doctor possible. But how do you know which doctor is right for you? The answer is not simple. Different people have different needs and different priorities that play into their choice of a doctor. The following six tips can help guide your search:

1.Understand Your Diagnosis
A great first step is to find out as much specific information as you can about the details of your diagnosis. Knowing exactly what type of cancer you have can help you find the best doctor to treat your specific case.
Understanding the extent to which your cancer has spread is also important. If you have localized cancer, your first encounter should probably be with a cancer surgeon. If you have widespread cancer, you may more appropriately be referred to a medical oncologist.
Once you understand your diagnosis, a next step is to learn about standard treatment options for your type and stage of cancer. If your doctor offers you a treatment plan that is inconsistent with what you’ve learned from your research, you may not be able to assess on your own whether it’s a better or worse approach, but it will allow you to initiate informed discussions with your doctor or to seek a second opinion.

2.Get Input from People You Trust
As you begin your own research into your diagnosis and treatment, you may also want to ask people you trust for a physician referral. For example, your primary care doctor or a local oncologist may be able to refer you to an expert in your type of cancer.
The first doctor you see for your cancer care may also be able to help you plan your subsequent care. If you have lung cancer, for example, you first see a surgeon. The surgeon can then refer patients to the physicians who will provide the post-surgery cancer care.

3.Get the Care That Your Diagnosis Requires
Keep in mind that though many doctors will be able to provide high-quality cancer care, those who focus on your specific type of cancer may have important additional expertise.
Finding a physician who focuses on your particular type of cancer may require some travel and visiting a large cancer center. Once your treatment strategy is developed, however, you may be able to receive the bulk of your care closer to home.
In particular, patients facing stem cell transplants and rare cancers these or similar may benefit from highly specialized care because most oncologists do not handle these situations on a regular basis.
All patients may want to consider choosing a doctor who is board certified in the specialty in which he or she practices.

4.Consider a Second Opinion
Another step that many cancer patients take when selecting a doctor is to get a second opinion. Second opinions are a common practice in any area of medicine that is complex and that has multiple treatment options. Getting a second opinion allows patients to become more informed about their cancer and their treatment options and also provides reassurance.
For tips on when to seek a second opinion, go to
When to Seek a Second Opinion.

5.Be Comfortable with Your Choice
In addition to finding a doctor with expertise in your type of cancer and pursuing a second opinion if you choose, keep in mind the value of finding a doctor with whom you feel comfortable. Some patients, for example, believe strongly in the role that complementary and alternative medicine plays in treatment. When choosing a doctor, these patients will need to consider how much it matters to them that their doctor either does or does not endorse those beliefs.

6.Remember: There’s No One Right Answer
There is no simple or one-size-fits-all formula for finding a doctor. Each patient—and each doctor—is unique. Finding a doctor who specializes in your type of cancer is a good starting point, but you may also wish to consider such factors as travel time and how comfortable you are with the doctor. You may be happiest taking the recommendation of a trusted individual, or you may want to research options on your own. Ultimately, you need to do what’s right for you.

1 comment:

K said...

Thanks for the information on how to find a good cancer doctor.

We recently wrote an article on finding a good doctor on Brain Blogger. When it comes down to finding a doctor, is communication and accessibility important to you? Does it matter whether your doctor is foreign and has as thick accent or the fact that you can't talk to your doctor through the phone directly, but through a nurse or receptionist?

We would like to read your comments on our article. Thank you.