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What to Consider When Choosing a Right Oncologist?

Aug 14, 2023

Cancer diagnosis demands expert care. This guide offers insights to help you discover how to find an oncologist who aligns with your needs

What to Look for when Choosing an Oncologist

Choosing an oncologist is a pivotal choice in your cancer care journey. Here's a guide to steer your decision:


Referrals from Trusted Sources


Your primary care doctor is a valuable source of information. Given their background in the field and familiarity with specialists, they can provide valuable recommendations. They can point you toward oncologists with specific expertise relevant to your condition and needs, making this an essential first step when you find an oncologist.


Prioritize Multidisciplinary Care

A multidisciplinary approach is vital in cancer care. This approach guarantees that you're not relying on a single viewpoint. Instead, a team consisting of surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses, and social workers, collaborates and ensures that your treatment plan is comprehensive and tailored to your needs.


Looking for Recognized Institutions


When you're in the process of choosing an oncologist, choosing an institution, like a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer center, ensures that you're getting care at a center recognized for its expertise and comprehensive approach to cancer treatment. These centers stay updated with the latest research and technology, offering patients access to cutting-edge treatments.


Consult Multiple Experts and Seek a Second Opinion


Don't limit yourself to one opinion. Choosing an oncologist doesn't mean settling for the first expert you meet. Scheduling appointments with several oncologists allows you to compare their insights, treatment philosophies, and recommendations. This broader perspective can be especially beneficial when facing major decisions or changes in treatment.

find an oncologist

How Can Docus Help With Choosing The Best Oncologist? is an AI-powered health platform that can be an invaluable tool in this regard. With, you can generate a health report and chat with a virtual health assistant for clarification. What sets it apart is its ability to connect patients with top doctors from the US & Europe for a second opinion.

Whether you prefer written feedback or a video call, ensures that you can validate your diagnosis and treatment strategy from the comfort of your home. This combination of technology and expertise can bring a broader perspective, especially during crucial treatment decisions.


Check Credentials and Expertise


Oncologists have diverse backgrounds and specializations. Before you find an oncologist, ensure that your chosen doctor is board-certified, indicating they've met specific standards in their field. Moreover, research how many patients they've treated with your specific type of cancer. For surgical oncologists, gauge their experience, complications, and success rates.

If you're exploring platforms like, you'll find solace in knowing that the selection process for doctors is stringent. The doctors on the platform have undergone a rigorous selection process, ensuring that you're getting advice from the best in the field.


Accessibility and Location


While convenience is a factor, quality of care is paramount. Sometimes, the best care might require traveling. Major cancer centers, even farther away, often have partnerships with local clinics or practitioners to ensure you receive consistent and coordinated care closer to home when feasible.


Insurance, Hospital, and Academic Affiliations


Navigating healthcare can be financially challenging. Ensure that your chosen oncologist is in-network with your insurance. Additionally, their hospital affiliations matter as some institutions provide superior care or have better resources. Affiliations with top-tier medical schools can also be a positive indicator of an oncologist's commitment to ongoing learning and access to the latest research.


Personal Comfort and Connection


Your journey with cancer is deeply personal. Ensure that your oncologist is someone you feel comfortable with—someone who listens to your concerns, communicates clearly, spends adequate time addressing your questions, and respects your values and preferences.


Clinical Trials


Cancer treatment is evolving rapidly, with new breakthroughs emerging regularly. Your oncologist's involvement in, or knowledge of, clinical trials might open doors to innovative treatments not yet widely available.


Other Considerations


Think about logistics. What are the oncologist's office hours? Is there support available after hours? Who steps in if they are unavailable? Knowing the care team and the support system in place can offer peace of mind when choosing an oncologist.

choosing an oncologist


Do I need a referral to see an oncologist?


Whether you need a referral to see an oncologist depends on your health plan. If you are enrolled in an HMO, a visit to your primary care physician (PCP) for a referral is mandatory. The same applies to most point-of-service (POS) plans. On the other hand, with most PPO or Indemnity plans, prior consultation with your family physician or PCP isn't necessary. To be certain, consult your member summary in the benefits booklet.


Why would you see an oncologist?


An oncologist is a physician with expertise in diagnosing and treating cancer. When one encounters symptoms like pronounced fatigue, unintended weight loss, unexplained pain, or a lasting lump, it's recommended to visit a medical expert immediately, beginning with a primary care provider. Upon detailing the symptoms, the provider will administer a physical examination and might request diagnostic measures like blood tests or scans.

If preliminary results hint at a tumor, the individual will be referred to an oncologist. This referral is to ensure the patient receives specialized care based on the type of cancer suspected.


What questions to ask when choosing an oncologist?


When trying to find an oncologist, the search can be overwhelming. It's crucial to have a clear understanding of their expertise and approach. To assist those choosing an oncologist, here are a few key questions to ensure you make the best decision:

  • What are their qualifications and experience?
  • Do they specialize in my type of cancer?
  • How often do they treat patients with my diagnosis?
  • What treatments do they offer and recommend?
  • Can they provide references or testimonials from previous patients?
  • How do they stay updated with the latest research and treatments?
  • Are they affiliated with any renowned cancer centers or hospitals?
  • What's their approach to patient care – are they holistic, focused solely on medical aspects, or a combination?
  • How do they handle communication and follow-up?
  • Will they coordinate with other medical professionals involved in my care?


How to prepare for an appointment?


To prepare for an oncologist appointment, gather all pertinent medical records, including imaging tests like MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays. Compile a list of medications you're on or, as some oncologists prefer, bring the actual medications, encompassing supplements, vitamins, and herbs.

Consider having a family member or close friend accompany you for note-taking and emotional support, as appointments can be information-heavy. Prioritize listing down questions to ensure you cover essential topics during your visit.


With this comprehensive guide in hand, the quest to find an oncologist becomes less daunting, empowering you to make choices tailored to your needs. Armed with knowledge, you can navigate your cancer journey with greater confidence and clarity.

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