Choosing a health care team

Finding the best available health care is crucial. Your primary care doctor will have an ongoing role in your cancer treatment and may refer you to an oncologist, a specialist in cancer care. Your oncologist should be someone who listens carefully to your needs and concerns, relates to you with consideration and respect, and will work with you to select the cancer treatment that is right for you. Many people choose to seek a second opinion. If you feel that this is an option you would like to pursue, ask your primary care doctor or oncologist for help in referring you to another specialist. Taking a few days to meet with more than one doctor is always appropriate and is a positive step toward taking control of your cancer therapy. Physicians understand that this is necessary for many newly diagnosed patients and should be supportive of your need to explore this option. After meeting with and talking to different physicians, you should feel free to move forward with the health care provider who best fits your needs and will work with you to meet your goals. Remember, building a comfortable relationship with your health care team is an important part of your cancer care.

Your health care team may also include an oncology nurse. This is the person who will administer your chemotherapy treatments, help you understand your disease, and assist you in managing the symptoms of your disease or its treatment. Other members of your health care team may include a dietitian to help you with your nutritional needs, a social worker to help you with emotional support, financial needs, and identifying other resources, or an oncology pharmacist to help explain how you may be affected by the drugs used in your treatment. They are interested in your care and will be able to answer your questions in a way that makes sense to you. You need to make sure that you communicate your needs as clearly as you can to everyone on your health care team so they can help you make the best decisions.

Some questions to ask when choosing a health care team

1. Am I comfortable with my health care team? Do they make me feel like I am a central part of the decision-making process?
2. Does the doctor communicate to me in terms that I can understand?
3. Am I comfortable with the information that is provided to me?
4. Do I feel comfortable asking questions? Does the doctor listen to my concerns?
5. Are the office surroundings comfortable?
6. Do I have to wait long after my appointment time to see the doctor?
7. Besides the doctor, what other specialists are available to me? A dietitian, social worker, nurse, or pharmacist?
8. When and how can I contact my health care team?

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