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Breast Cancer: Choosing Your Doctors

Questions for the Breast Cancer Specialist

By preparing a list of questions about your care before the first appointment, you'll be better able to understand treatment. Asking questions will also help you become actively involved in your care.

Choosing a Hospital to Treat Breast Cancer

When deciding on a breast cancer treatment facility, you should first learn:

  • Whether the hospital has experience in treating your condition
  • How the hospital was rated by outside organizations (such as the American College of Surgeons or the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations)
  • If the hospital is conveniently located
  • If your health insurance covers care at the hospital
  • If the hospital offers educational and social programs for cancer patients
  • Whether the hospital is involved with cancer research and offers clinical trials

What Is an NCI Cancer Center?

The National Cancer Institute -- or NCI -- is a branch of the federal government that has designated a select group of 60 medical institutions in over 30 states as cancer centers.

The highest rating is a National Cancer Institute designated "comprehensive cancer center," which is generally associated with larger medical institutions, universities, or medical schools. They offer the latest in medications, new techniques, state-of-the-art equipment, and access to clinical trials. Their doctors stay current in the newest methods in treating cancer.

Call the Cancer Information Service (1-800-4-CANCER) (1-800-422-6237), 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, for more information about cancer treatment centers in your area. Calls are answered in English and Spanish. The service serves deaf and hearing-impaired callers through the toll-free TTY number (1-800-332-8615).

Or for a list of cancer centers online, go to cancer.gov.

Choosing Your Support for Breast Cancer

It's important not to neglect your emotional health during cancer treatment. Cancer patients, families, friends, and caregivers need support in varying ways during this difficult time.

  • Cancer doctors or nurses can direct patients or families to a social worker familiar with support groups or individual support to help you cope.
  • An oncology social worker may be available to meet with families or patients to address emotional issues, financial difficulties, insurance questions, discharge planning, transportation, and home or hospice care.
  • Hospitals organize seminars or programs that educate patients about cancer, provide support, and offer walk-a-thons and other activities for women with cancer.
  • A dietitian can offer ways to make meals more nutritious and appealing.
  • A psychologistcan address more serious emotional challenges such as depression or anxiety, which are common in cancer patients.
  • A hospital chaplain uses spiritual and clinical training to address the spiritual needs of patients and families.
  • Hospitals often have libraries or resource centers that are open to patients.

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