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How to find the right oncologist for you

The day a person is diagnosed with cancer is a life-altering moment. Many people rely on support networks made up of family and friends to help them during their cancer treatments, and such support networks can extend to patients’ choice of oncologists as well.

Oncology is a branch of medicine involved in the diagnosis and treatment of tumors. The term “oncology” is derived from the Greek word “onco,” meaning bulk or mass. Upon diagnosing patients with cancer, oncologists explain the type of cancer patients have and explain the various treatment options available to patients. Oncologists also are on call to answer any questions and are often the first people patients turn to when they have questions about their disease.

Taking an active role in their cancer treatment can help patients feel more in control of their situations, and patients’ choice of oncologist is one of the first big decisions they must make.

• Start with a referral. Begin by speaking with your primary care physician. He or she may have a list of recommended oncologists or ones affiliated with nearby hospitals.

• Do your research. The goal is to find an oncologist who specializes in your form of cancer and has a good treatment success rate. Do not be afraid to ask about success statistics and ask for prior patients’ names so you can get their opinions on the care they received. Look up the doctor’s credentials as well.

• Consider a group practice. As with other medical providers, some oncologists work together in full partnerships with other oncologists. Choosing this type of provider may enable you to gain the benefit of the doctors’ collaborative experience.

• Judge communication style and compassion levels. Does the doctor answer your questions in a manner that fits with your personality? Do you feel supported by the doctor and that he or she exudes empathy?

• Look into insurance coverage. While you may want to go with one particular doctor, you must investigate if your insurance covers that particular oncologist.

• Look into the hospital. Consider the quality of care at the hospital where the oncologist will treat you as a patient.

A qualified, compassionate oncologist can make it easier to navigate a cancer diagnosis.

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