When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you may feel pressured to start treatments right away. However, most newly-diagnosed cancer patients have enough time to do some research and look at their options for cancer treatment centers, doctors and hospitals. It’s important that you choose a treatment team you feel comfortable with and a facility equipped to offer the best possible care.
The doctor who made the diagnosis will probably be able to give you referrals and information about your treatment options. But he or she is not your only source of information. The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society also have resources to help you find good cancer doctors and treatment centers or hospitals in your area. Before you start searching, however, you should speak to your diagnosing physician and find out how much time you can safely take to research treatment options.
Choose Your Cancer Doctor
Some people facing cancer look for a cancer treatment center by finding a particular doctor or team of doctors they like. Once they find a doctor, they’ll just go to whatever hospital or treatment center that doctor works with. Look for a doctor who specializes in treating your type of cancer; find out how many other patients he or she has treated and what his or her success rate is. You may also want to look for a doctor who is board certified in treating your type of cancer; however, board certification is not a requirement for doctors and many great doctors aren’t board certified.
Of course, you will probably need to work with an entire team of doctors during your treatment, but you’ll still need a primary doctor who oversees your entire treatment plan. It’s important to know what you need and expect from this doctor. Make a list of the things you’re looking for in a care provider. Do you want a doctor who is brusque and businesslike, or one with a warm, friendly bedside manner? Do you need your doctor to speak a language other than English or have a particular background?
You can use the Internet to research patient reviews and referrals from sites like HealthGrades.com. You shouldn’t rely solely on the opinions of other patients, however. Make a list of doctors who might be a good fit, then call them up and talk to them. Use the American Cancer Society worksheet to keep track of the information you collect.
If you’re like many people facing cancer treatment, you may want to focus on finding a good cancer treatment center and then choosing a preferred doctor who works with that facility. Or you may choose a doctor who has admitting privileges at a cancer treatment center or hospital of your choice. A renowned cancer treatment facility or hospital will generally employ the best doctors in the field.
If you live in a major metropolitan area, or near a major hospital, you may have access to a cancer treatment facility that specializes in cancer treatment. This facility may or may not be affiliated with a nearby hospital. Look for a facility that has been approved by the Commission on Cancer. Research treatment centers or hospitals the same way you would doctors. Use the American Cancer Society worksheet to keep track of the information you find.
Whether you’re choosing a doctor, a hospital or a treatment center, convenience is important. Cancer treatment can take a lot out of you, so you don’t want to have to travel too far to receive it. Of course, some people are more able than others to travel long distances or temporarily relocate in order to receive cancer treatment.
If you have access to a facility that’s dedicated to cancer treatment, you may want to go ahead and use it instead of a hospital. Hospitals can offer good cancer treatment, but a cancer treatment facility will give you access to the full range of specialists and procedures under the same roof, and make it easier for your treatment team to keep track of your records. Cancer treatment facilities are often affiliated with hospitals, and you may need to be admitted to the hospital for certain procedures.
It’s also a good idea to find out whether the facility you’re looking at participates in clinical trials. These trials, which allow researchers to test the efficacy of new cancer treatments, can be of immense value. Many cancer treatment centers, especially those affiliated with university hospitals, offer the chance for patients to participate in clinical trials.
If you don’t have access to a dedicated cancer treatment facility or a university hospital, don’t worry. Cancer treatment is standardized and you can get great care at a small hospital. The important thing is to make sure that your insurance covers the treatments, and that you’re working with skilled doctors who make you feel at ease. Cancer treatments have evolved dramatically over the past few decades; more people today are beating cancer than ever before.