Choosing an Oncologist
Choosing the right oncologist is an important first step for any person who has received a cancer diagnosis, and a step that will inform, educate, and support individuals and their family members throughout the treatment process.
Insurance plans offer lists of in-network physicians for individuals to consider, however it is often very beneficial to speak to your primary care doctor, as well as friends and family, who can offer referrals to physicians in the area. You may also want to call your local hospital to ask for a list of doctors specializing in cancer care who practice at that hospital. Many online resources exist to help individuals locate oncologists in their area. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), for example, hosts a searchable database that includes more than 30,000 oncologists, listing their affiliations, specialties, and contact information. The American Medical Association (AMA) also provides a database called DoctorFinder, allowing users to search for licensed physicians in the United States by name or medical specialty. Web-based searches, or looking at advertisements in the telephone book or yellow pages may also help you in locating doctors.
Once you have narrowed down a list of oncologists in your area, it is a good idea to call the offices of the physicians to confirm that they accept your specific insurance plan, as well as to make sure that they are accepting new patients. If you do not have insurance, or if you are covered under federal or state health insurance programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, you should consult with the doctor's office to make sure they accept patients under these programs, or if they offer any reduced rates or services for people without medical insurance.
When it comes to selecting the oncologist for you, there are several considerations to keep in mind. First, does the oncologist have board certification, and do they specialize or have extensive experience in the relevant area of treatment? Also, does the doctor make an effort to stay up-to-date with his or her knowledge of recent innovations in cancer treatments? When you meet with the oncologist, do you feel he or she listens closely to you, addressing your concerns and allowing you to feel informed and respected? These are all important considerations, and you should ultimately choose a doctor that you feel assured is well qualified, as well as sympathetic and caring to your unique situation.
Many individuals seek second opinions, or choose to meet with several doctors until they find one who offers the support they need, and with whom they share a positive rapport. Remember that it is common to seek the advice of more than one medical professional, and you should feel comfortable asking questions of your doctor, and receiving care that is nothing less than compassionate, supportive, and personal to you and your loved ones.