Choosing a Doctor for Your Cancer Care: Being a Patient Advocate Is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Health

Being diagnosed with cancer can leave you feeling out of control and helpless, but it’s important to remember that your care is still in your hands. Choosing your doctor is an important task, and you should know how to be your own best advocate. Here’s everything you should consider when you selecting a doctor for your cancer care.

Ask for Recommendations

The doctor who diagnosed your cancer is a great place to start when looking for an oncologist. You can ask him or her who they would recommend to a friend or family member. You might also want to ask around and see if any of your friends or loved ones have recommendations of who to see. Your relationship with your doctor is very personal, and having the right oncologist will make a huge difference. If you know a cancer survivor, he or she will probably recommend their own doctor without hesitation. You’ll also need to find a hospital in your area that can provide treatment. Look for one with a cancer department and that has experience treating people with your diagnosis.

Look for Accreditation

After you’ve received a few recommendations, you’ll want to look into the programs and see if they are accredited. The Commission on Cancer (CoC) reviews hospitals and treatment centers that meet their standards. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) works to improve cancer care, so by receiving treatment at one of their partners, you’ll get the newest and most up-to-date treatment based on amazing research. Accreditation shows that the hospital or center is upholding the state’s standards, and with cancer, you want high-quality treatment.

Consider Which Doctor You Need

Ideally, the doctor who diagnosed you will have more information on your type of cancer and which doctor you will need. If not, you can talk with an oncologist and see what he or she would recommend. You might need a medical oncologist, a surgical oncologist, or a radiation oncologist. You might even need all three doctors throughout the course of your treatment. You can do more research on your own about your type of cancer and learn the differences between the doctors and what other people in your situation have done. You can check the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) database to find qualified doctors near you. You should also look into free public records to learn more about your potential doctors. Doing a little research on your own will help you regain power and feel confident in your knowledge of your condition.

Look for Someone Who Will Be a Good Fit

If you were diagnosed with breast cancer, for example, you’d need to find a doctor who has experience with breast cancer treatment and has the proper credentials. You’ll also want to consider whether or not the doctor will be a good fit for you and your family. You will be going through a lot of treatment and the process could take a very long time. Your doctor will be with you every step of the way, so he or she needs to have a good relationship with you. You need to feel comfortable asking questions or raising concerns. Consider what’s important to you when you try to build a relationship with someone. Is it a sense of humor? Are you more comfortable with someone whose gender matches yours or someone with the same ethnic background as you? You want to make sure you can build rapport and trust with your oncologist since you will need his or her support during this difficult time. Spend a while doing research and find the person who will be the perfect fit.

A cancer diagnosis is scary, but with the right doctor and the right sense of confidence, you’ll feel prepared to become a cancer survivor. Take your treatment into your own hands and become your own advocate.

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