COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Update: Vaccine Updates | COVID-19 Information | Visitor Guidelines

If you or a family member has ever faced a cancer diagnosis, you know how overwhelming receiving this news can be. Sifting through the choices and advice, and trying to understand what is happening can feel complicated. One of the most important decisions you will make in your journey is deciding who to trust to treat you. Beyond finding a facility that’s conveniently located, there are many other considerations. Your care team will be with you through your entire cancer journey, so choosing the most experienced and appropriate team is the best decision you can make. Here are some questions I recommend you ask physicians to find the best fit for you:

1. Are you fellowship trained in cancer care, and what percentage of your practice is dedicated to cancer care?

These questions will help you get to the heart of your doctor’s level of expertise. Beyond medical school, physicians who are fellowship trained have completed residency and then been accepted to a fellowship program to do additional years of specialty training in the cancer field. Having a fellowship trained physician means you have specialists with high levels of expertise working for you. You want to find a team with expertise in your particular cancer so they know about new treatment options and are participating in research tailored to your needs.

2. Do you participate in clinical research, and how many papers have you published on my type of cancer?

Physicians who practice as a part of an academic medical center often study their specialty throughout their careers, attending extra courses, teaching on their subject, publishing papers, and presenting at conferences on their specialty. Their patients can be confident in their thorough knowledge of clinical trials and treatment advances available for their cancer.

3. Are there treatments you don’t offer that would be relevant to my cancer?

Having as many options available to you as possible is extra assurance that you have the right team on your side.

4. How many of the treatments you’re recommending have you personally performed?

Many of my patients have questions about treatment, but this is one people tend to forget to ask. Research shows that the higher their volumes, or the more practice a doctor has had in their specialty, the better the patient outcomes. Be sure to ask about your team’s experience when asking about your treatment.

5. What are your results for this treatment in terms of cure and side effects?

Become well informed so you can choose the most appropriate treatment options for your type of cancer and your individual situation. Look for a physician who takes their time to explain treatment outcomes and side effects.

6. What kinds of resources do you have for people recently diagnosed with cancer?

Beyond your treatment options, discuss what is available to you through your cancer journey from diagnosis to survivorship. Should your family be aware of a genetic risk for cancer? Find a cancer network that can provide genetic testing, if appropriate. Does the network have ancillary services, such as rehabilitation, therapy, cosmetologists and psychologists who are well qualified to help you and your family through the entire process? Any provider you consider should look at you as a whole person and offer a personalized approach to your treatment and support.

7. Who are the nationally recognized experts in southeastern Wisconsin who treat this disease?

Be sure to bring a pen and paper or audio recorder for your doctor’s answers since you are receiving a lot of new information. Many of my patients bring a trusted loved one with them who can hear and remember my answers. Finding a doctor you can have good rapport with and who helps you understand complex medical answers is key. I have a habit of writing and drawing cartoons for my patients to better understand what they are going through, and often have patients who bring notes back to me years later. People treasure advice from a physician they trust, so find a physician who takes time to establish that relationship.

Learn more about our cancer network

Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network

Thumbnail
About the Author

Sailaja Kamaraju, MD is a hematologist and oncologist with the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Network. Dr. Kamaraju specializes in treating patients with cancer and blood disorders. She practices at Moorland Reserve Health Center, where she serves as medical director. She also sees patients at the Clinical Cancer Center at Froedtert Hospital, and is an assistant professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Division of Hematology and Oncology. This article originally ran in the Waukesha Freeman.

Topics & Tags:

Add new comment