41TAB THREE | UNDERSTANDING CANCER patient guide
Many people with cancer want to take an active part in making decisions about their medical care. It is natural to want
to learn all you can about your disease and treatment choices. However, shock and stress after the diagnosis can make
it hard to think of everything you want to ask the doctor. It often helps to make a list of questions before an appointment.
To help remember what the doctor says, you may take notes or ask whether you may use a tape recorder. Some people
also want to have a family member or friend with them when they talk to the doctor—to take part in the discussion, to take
notes or just to listen.
You do not need to ask all your questions at once. You will have other chances to ask the doctor or nurse to explain things
that are not clear and to ask for more information.
Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, or you may ask for a referral. Specialists who treat cancer include surgeons,
medical oncologists, hematologists and radiation oncologists.
Getting a Second Opinion
Before starting treatment, you may want a second opinion about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Many insurance
companies will cover a second opinion if your doctor requests it. It may take some time and effort to gather medical
records and arrange to see another doctor. Usually it is not a problem to take several weeks to get a second opinion.
In most cases, the delay in starting treatment will not make treatment less effective. But some people with cancer need
treatment right away. To make sure, you should discuss this delay with your doctor.
There are a number of ways to ﬁnd a doctor for a second opinion:
• Your doctor may refer you to one or more specialists. At cancer centers, several specialists often work together as a team.
• NCI’s Cancer Information Service, at 1–800–4–CANCER, can tell you about nearby treatment centers. Information Specialists also can provide online assistance through Live Help at http://www.cancer.gov.
• A local or state medical society, a nearby hospital or a medical school can usually provide the names of specialists.
• The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has a list of doctors who have had training and passed exams in their specialty. You can ﬁnd this list in the Ofﬁcial ABMS Directory of Board Certiﬁed Medical Specialists. This directory is in most public libraries. Also, ABMS offers this information at http://www.abms.org. (Click on “Who’s Certiﬁed.”)
• The NCI provides a fact sheet called “How To Find a Doctor or Treatment Facility If You Have Cancer.”
• Nonproﬁt organizations with an interest in cancer may be of help. See the NCI fact sheet “National Organizations That Offer Services to People With Cancer and Their Families.”