You may have received your cancer diagnosis from a general physician or an oncologist. Once you have processed that diagnosis is completed, you might want to find out what the next steps are.
One of the first steps in your cancer treatment is selecting your oncologist. Instead of relying solely on guesswork or the recommendations of a few friends who may not know enough about cancer care, it is best to weigh all the options you have.
In this article we look at how you can find the right oncologist and all the aspects you need to consider while making this decision.
Why is this important?
Aren’t all oncologists equally qualified? Why should it make a big difference which one you consult? Most cancer survivors will be able to tell you that their relationship with their oncologist has been crucial in their recovery process. Here’s why:
- Expertise: Different oncologists specialise in different types of cancer. Furthermore, they also specialise in different forms of treatment like chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. You will need to find a doctor most suited for your type and stage of cancer.
- Comfort: Most cancer treatments tend to be long-term, involving multiple methods of treatment. For most patients and their families it becomes an emotional journey where they constantly need the right advice and encouragement. This makes it all the more important to find the right oncologist, with whom you can communicate effectively.
- Trust: Having a doctor who provides the reasoning behind each step of your treatment and allows you to ask questions freely, can help you build trust. Since you are placing your wellbeing into his/her hands, it’s important for you to be able to trust them.
How can I find the best oncologist?
The first part of this process is understanding that there is no oncologist who can be called ‘number 1’, or ‘the best oncologist’ for all cancer patients. This is because each type of cancer and each type of treatment has its own set of experts.
It is likely that you will have to consult more than one oncologist for your treatment as you move from surgery to chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
We’ve put together some steps that you can follow, to find the best oncologist(s) for your treatment.
Step 1: Find out your type of cancer
Cancers are broadly classified based on which part of the body they originated in. For example, breast cancers start in the breast, lung cancers start in the lungs and so on.
Sometimes, these cancers may spread to other parts of the body. But your biopsy report will usually be able to confirm where the cancer originated.
Oncologists specialise in the type of cancer. So you can narrow your search to only those oncologists who specialize in the type of cancer that you have.
Step 2: Find out what type of treatment you need
Depending on the stage and type of your cancer, you may need to undergo a surgery, or chemotherapy or radiation, or any other type of treatment.
Oncologists who specialise in surgery are called surgical oncologists (SO), those that specialise in chemotherapy or immunotherapy are called medical oncologists (MO) and those that specialise in radiation therapy are called radiation oncologists (RO).
Usually, a cancer hospital will have all these types of specialists on their panel and they will jointly evaluate & manage your case. They will find out the stage of your cancer and then based on that, they will draw up a treatment plan for you.
If you want to find out what tests & treatments are likely to be prescribed for you, you can use our OCPAP software to download this information for free.
Step 3: Look for qualifications and experience
All doctors have to complete five and half years of MBBS studies. Radiation oncologist then complete a further three years of specialisation. Medical, surgical and hemato oncologists complete three years of specialisation after MBBS and a further three years of super specialisation.
Look for an oncologist who has more experience in treating your type of cancer. This is specially important for rare types of cancers.
Step 4: Look for locations
Find out which hospitals and clinics the oncologist visits for consultations. Also, find out if they provide video consultation when required and if you can reach them over the phone in an emergency.
Having easy access to your oncologist can be a game changer as you can reduce your anxiety from any new side-effects or symptoms you notice. Find out if you can reach the oncologist during weekends or holidays.
It is always best to pick an oncologist who is close to your location as constant travel can get difficult during treatment and also expose you to more infections.
There are also certain advantages of seeking treatment at a cancer speciality hospital as you will have better access to all the medical services you require under one roof. This means you will not need to visit different venues for diagnostic tests, for radiation sessions etc.
Step 5: Check your insurance policy or health card
If you are using insurance or a health card to cover the expenses of your treatment, ensure that the hospital or clinic that you meet your oncologist at accepts it.
Not all hospitals accept all insurance cards and health cards. It’s best to check before you start treatment and plan your finances for treatment accordingly.
Step 6: Meet the oncologist
It’s only when you meet the oncologist that you can see for yourself if their style of communication works for you. You can also do this via a video call if you prefer.
Some oncologists might be more open to being asked questions than others. You might benefit from an oncologist who is willing to spend time explaining your treatment to you.
Seeing the clinic or hospital for yourself will also help you judge if the standards meet your expectations or not.
Where can I get help?
Finding out about the best oncologists for your cancer can be a struggle. Onco.com does provide this information to you, free of cost. You can contact us on 7996579965 to get this information.
Additionally, we also help you get priority appointments with the oncologist of your choice, after checking their availability on the date of your choice.
You can also find the details of expert oncologists on our website, along with their qualifications, experience and location.
How do I know my oncologist is giving me the right treatment?
This is a question that crosses the mind of many cancer patients and caregivers. It is important to trust your treating team of oncologists as you have chosen them. But if you want to double check if the treatment they have prescribed is the right one for you, you can get a second opinion.
It is recommended that you seek the opinion of more than one specialist for any medical treatment, to reduce the margin of error. You have the right to seek a second opinion and your medical team should not have a problem with this.
You can seek a second opinion by sharing your reports with another oncologist with expertise in the same type of cancer. At Onco.com, we help you get an online opinion from a panel of experts who will study your reports and suggest the best course of treatment for you.
You can then share this report with your oncologist if you want to.
Our panel also answers any specific questions you may have, like the duration of the treatment, the possible outcomes, the survival rates, the quality of life after treatment etc.
Who else do I need to consult?
Depending on the type and stage of your cancer, you might need a medical, surgical and radiation oncologist on your team.
You will also benefit from consulting a nutritionist about the right diet to follow during and after treatment. A nutritionist can provide meal plans and recipes for you to follow during this time.
Most cancer patients and caregivers benefit from having a psychology counsellor on their team. Cancer potentially is a stressful disease as the treatment tends to be intense and long-term. Having someone to guide you in the management of your stress and emotions can be most helpful.
If you need a home nurse or a carer to help you during the treatment, your local hospital or health centre should be able to put you in touch with them. Patients with more advanced and debilitating cancers may require such services.
There are also palliative care centres that help you with pain management in the advanced stages.
Onco.com provides care managers who handhold you through the treatment journey and beyond. They help you with hospital and diagnostic appointments, diet plans, pharmacy facilities, medical discounts, counsellor facilities and much more.