Doctors are a mixed bag and some are better than others.  That’s just natural.  As the old joke goes:  What do you call the person who graduated last in his medical school class?  Doctor.

But you want the best person for you because cancer is a big deal and getting the right treatment is literally a case of life and death.  How to find the right healthcare team to walk this walk with you?  Here are some tips.

1. Trust your gut. If you don’t like the doc, he just might feel the same way, and that could affect your treatment.
2. Get the best care you can afford. If this means heading out of town, do it. Cancer is a big deal; it deserves the best docs. US News and World Report lists the top 50 cancer centers here.
3. Do your research. On the left, I have listed some top websites for breast cancer information. Spend some time with these excellent resources–you’ll learn a great deal.

4. Ask questions. A good doctor will take time to answer them. My radiation oncologist even drew a picture for me, explaining how radiation works. More evidence that she was good. She spent more than an hour talking about all types of treatment with me and my husband. And she treated me like a smart adult who could understand her.
5. Write down the answers. I still consult my treatment notebook, in which I wrote what the doctor said—direct quotes in quote marks, journalist that I am. This comes in handy for follow-up research.
6. Call back with questions. This is your life. If things aren’t making sense the way they should, ask.
7. Respect even the worst doctors. First, respect breeds respect. Second, these folks spend their lives around cancer, so they deserve a break. That said, if they are not serving you well, go elsewhere.
8. Find a patient advocate. If you cannot wrap your head around this information, don’t try to go it alone. Better yet, go to a center that has a Nurse Navigator program—these people are trained to help you make sense of treatment. They ask the questions you don’t know to ask, and they understand the answers.
9. Get copies of all your reports, especially your pathology reports. This is how I found out what doctors said about me.

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