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How Do I Choose the Best Oncology Doctor?

Patients can take a number of considerations into account when they select an oncology doctor to treat a cancer. Also known as oncologists, these physicians focus on cancer care, and the first step for the patient should be generating a list of doctors who specialize in treating her kind of cancer. With some research, she can narrow down this list to two to three doctors. In meetings with them, she can learn more about their approach to patient care and determine if they are right for her needs.

Resources for finding oncology doctors can include recommendations from other care providers, conversations with friends and family, and medical review sites. Patients may also ask for a list of practitioners from a professional organization. This will allow them to generate a list of doctors who have professional certifications beyond the required medical training. If a patient plans to use insurance or other benefits to pay for care, he should determine which doctors on the long list will accept those payments.

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Patients may want to think about the location of an oncology doctor, as this can play an important role in cancer care. If it will be necessary to travel for treatment, accommodations may be an issue. The presence of support staff can also be something to think about. Some doctors practice in offices with nurses, nutritionists, counselors, massage therapists, and other care providers who can help patients throughout their cancer treatment. The presence of a support staff may result in more complete care and a better outcome for the patient.

In a meeting with an oncology doctor, the patient can ask to see the doctor's professional certifications and may want to find out where she trained and whether she has publications, awards, or other distinctive credits. The doctor should also be able to provide information about how long she has been in practice. An oncology doctor can also discuss patient outcomes and may offer her opinion on the patient's prognosis, given the available information. Patients may also want to ask how the doctor plans to tackle the cancer.

Meeting with an oncology doctor provides a patient with an opportunity to see if he gets along with the doctor and feels comfortable. If patients feel like they can't trust their doctors or find them unpleasant, it may be hard to see treatment through to the end. The meeting also offers a chance to learn about different treatment approaches and to get a balanced mixture of opinions on treatment and prognosis. This can be important information to have for medical decision making.

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