You'll have a swirl of emotions when you first learn you have cancer, but one key issue you'll need to tackle early on is how and where to get the best treatment. You can get on the right path if you ask your doctor lots of questions and do your own research on treatment options.
Find the Right Treatment Center
Everyone's case is different, but there are situations where you may want to get care someplace besides your local hospital. A lot depends on how rare your cancer is, what stage it's in, and where you live. Bigger hospitals usually have more experience in treating less common cancers. They're also more likely to be involved in cutting-edge research or clinical trials for you to take part in.
See if the doctor who first gave you a diagnosis has a recommendation for a treatment center. Ask him if he had a family member in your situation, where he would suggest his family member go. You can also get recommendations from other doctors or nurses you trust.
Go online and look for the nearest hospital that's accredited by the Commission on Cancer (CoC) of the American College of Surgeons. There are about 1,400 of these centers, and 71% of people with cancer in the U.S. are treated at one of them. You'll get high-quality care there.
You can also check online for centers backed by the National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers Program. It supports 70 facilities around the country that may do research on the type of cancer you have.
When you have a few options picked out, call the offices of the doctors you're interested in. Find out if they accept your insurance plan, what hospitals they work with, how much experience they have with your cancer, and what research projects or clinical trials they're involved in.
Learn About Your Cancer Treatment
Once you have a doctor who is managing your case, he'll review your treatment options with you. To make sure you understand and keep track of your choices, bring a notebook with you to your appointment so you can take notes. Or ask a family member or friend to come with you.
Also learn as much as you can about your cancer and how to treat it. You can get information from:
- Pamphlets provided by your health care team
- Support groups or online forums for people with your cancer
- Foundations and cancer advocacy groups
- Websites of health organizations like the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute
- Scientific papers about your cancer, which can be found using Google Scholar or PubMed.gov search engines
Find a Clinical Trial
Scientists are always looking for new ways to treat cancer in clinical trials. These studies test new drugs and treatments to see if they're safe and if they work. If you're interested in taking part in one, the best way to start is to ask your doctor if he knows of any that would be a good match for you.
Websites that help you find clinical trials include:
- National Cancer Institute, where you can search for clinical trials they back
- Cancer advocacy groups
When you find trials that may be a match, learn about their goals, whether you're likely to be eligible, where they're located, and how long they take.