Hearing the words "you have cancer" might be the scariest moment of a person's life. If this happens to you, you might feel completely overwhelmed, confused and shocked. One of the first things that you must do after receiving your diagnosis is to choose a cancer hospital or treatment center, which you can do by talking to your doctor, friends and acquaintances who have already gone through treatment or members of a cancer support group. Consider practicality when making your choice, and trust your instincts when you meet the doctors and staff members at the hospitals. Although time is of the essence, don't be afraid to take some time in making this important decision.
Talk to the doctor with whom you already have a rapport. You almost certainly are not his or her first patient who needs cancer treatment, and he or she probably has experience with at least one cancer hospital in the area. If you have been referred to an oncologist, ask him or her about the hospital or hospitals with which he or she works. If you do not have an oncologist yet and your primary care doctor offers you several names, ask people whom you know about their experiences, if applicable. You might prefer to join a cancer treatment support group, which can be an excellent source of information when it comes to choosing a cancer hospital.
After you have one or more cancer hospitals from which to choose, contact each of them to see whether they accept your medical insurance, if that is a concern. Cancer treatment usually is very expensive, so this can be a practical and pragmatic way to narrow your options for treatment centers. Check whether each treatment center has all of the services that you will need, such as laboratories, counseling services and any rehabilitation services that might be required during or after your treatment.
Also, consider how far the cancer hospitals are from your home. Some treatments might leave you too weak or sick to drive yourself, so your spouse, another relative or a friend might need to drive you. If your cancer hospital is not too far away, this might make it easier for everyone involved.
Finally, meet the staff at the hospital. If your oncologist recommends a particular cancer treatment center, then chances are good that the hospital will provide you with excellent treatment. When you talk to the staff members, though, make mental notes about whether you feel comfortable with the nurses and other members of the team. You might spend a lot of time at the center, and you should feel as though they are taking care of you well.