Finding a reputable, compassionate oncologist who can help you navigate the scary waters of cancer is an important step in your treatment plan. Since you’ll be working closely with your oncologist, you want to be sure you do your homework and find an oncologist who is a good fit with your personality, beliefs, and desired course of treatment. Below are a few more helpful tips for finding an doctor: Ask for referrals Ask folks you trust for a recommendation. Family, friends, colleagues, your personal family doctor—if someone in your inner circle has had a good experience with a particular oncologist, give them a call. Word-of-mouth advertising works wonders for professionals in any field, particularly in medicine. If you feel more comfortable, ask the person who recommended the doctor if they can go to the appointment with you. Do a web search Start digging and explore your options—particularly what might be available to you locally. Do a search of oncologists, cancer treatment centers, or other related terms, and put a list together. Once you have 5-10 names, keep digging. Look up the doctors’ credentials, how long they have been practicing, and their treatment success rate. Ask questions Once you’ve decided on your options, come up with a list of questions to ask each doctor. Think of it as a job interview, and you’re doing the hiring. Are they the right fit for your needs? Some possible questions might include:
- Where did you study oncology / attend medical school?
- How long have you been practicing? (Ask these two questions even if you found the information online—let the doctor elaborate on his background and tell you more about his professional experience)
- How large is your medical staff? (Since you’ll be spending a lot of time with their team of nurses and medical assistants, you want to make sure they will get to know you as a person, not just a patient)
- Are you familiar with the new treatment options that might be available?
- What is your treatment philosophy? Will you respect the choices my family and I make about my course of treatment?
- How many patients have you treated with this form of cancer?
- Why should I choose you as my oncologist?
If someone referred you to a particular doctor, ask them questions, as well. You’re likely to get a more candid response from a current or former patient, so you might want to speak with them prior to your appointment. You may want to ask:
- How is the doctor’s bedside manner?
- Did the doctor respect your family? Were they included in the decision-making process throughout your treatment?
- How many doctors did you speak with before you decided on this one?
Getting a thorough picture of your oncologist’s philosophy and approach to their patients can go a long way toward deciding on the best physician for you.