How to Find the Best Cancer Treatment
Get answers to 10 commonly asked questions about clinical trials, where to get cancer treatment, and more.
How do I know if I'm getting the right treatment?
Lichtenfeld recalls a patient he once spoke to, a younger woman with very early stage breast cancer. Her surgeon -- an experienced and well-regarded breast specialist -- had recommended she have a double mastectomy, an opinion that shocked him and other doctors she spoke to.
"Not all doctors will get it right all the time," Lichtenfeld says. "Again, never be afraid to get a second opinion."
One way to find out if the treatment you've been recommended is standard of care for your particular cancer is to call the American Cancer Society's Helpline at 800-227-2345. The trained cancer specialists who staff the line 24-7 can tell you what treatments are standard for your type of cancer and help you understand your treatment plan.
Do I have to travel to get good care?
Not necessarily. If you can find a Commission on Cancer-accredited hospital in your area, that institution may provide the best treatment option for you close to home. Although major cancer centers provide access to a lot of resources and state-of-the-art technologies, it may be that you'd get the exact same treatment nearby as you would a few hours away at a major center.
"A great doctor at the bedside is worth five expert doctors flying around the country," Lichtenfeld says. "You also have to think about your total situation. If you have metastatic cancer and are interested in a clinical trial that's available far away, you have to weigh how much advantage you would get going to the cancer center to get that trial, versus how comfortable you would be at home."
It can certainly be worthwhile to make a trip to a major cancer center to get a second opinion. There, you may find that they would recommend exactly the same treatment that your hometown cancer doctor would. Or if you can't make the trip, call the ACS Helpline and ask if the treatment you've been recommended is standard for your type of cancer, and if there are other recommended courses of treatment.
If your cancer is rare or more advanced, it may be more important to travel in order to find a hospital or center with expertise in the latest treatments for your particular cancer, Lichtenfeld says.