People use different criteria when choosing a physician. Many factors will influence people’s decisions, including the physician’s experience treating cancer and his or her technical skills, the hospital’s location, insurance coverage, and personal factors, such as the physician’s ability to gain trust and confidence (or “bedside manner”). Interview physicians; assess their experience and other criteria that you and your loved one consider important. If you have just received the diagnosis of cancer, you and the patient may consider seeking a second opinion from a cancer specialist in your area, ideally from a physician who routinely treats cancer. Finding the right doctor is sometimes stressful.
If you do not already have a doctor to treat your cancer, you may want to ask your primary care physician for a referral. National organizations can also help you find an appropriate physician. We have provided a list of Internet resources that may be helpful in your doctor search (see the Appendix for a list of resources). Additionally, if you are comfortable, ask family or friends for the names of oncologists they know and liked. We provide several resources you may use to locate cancer specialists (see the Appendix). You may also contact your insurance company for a referral suggestion.
Questions to ask a doctor:
1. Years of experience treating cancer (How long have you been treating patients with cancer?)
2. Specialization (Are you experienced in treating the type of cancer my loved one has? If so, how many cases do you treat a year? Are you involved in researching new treatments for this type of cancer?)
3. Communication (Where can I find more information about my loved one’s cancer? If I have questions, how should I let you know?)
4. Insurance plan coverage (Do you participate with my insurance policy? If not, then what are alternative payment options?)
5. Proposed treatment plans (What is the recommended treatment for this cancer? What is the goal(s) of treatment? Is there treatment other than the standard treatment? Is my loved one eligible for any clinical trials?)