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Choosing a Specialist or Treatment Center

Taking an active role in making decisions about your blood cancer treatment can have a positive effect on your health and quality of life. Among your first choices as an active participant in your care is to select a doctor to manage your treatment and choose a treatment center.

Some people choose a treatment center first, while others begin by choosing a doctor to manage the treatment. Some people have the option to travel to another city or state to receive their care, while others don't. Whatever your situation, you can make an informed choice when you know the questions to ask, issues to consider and resources available.

Health Plan Coverage

For most people, health plan coverage is an important consideration when choosing a cancer specialist or treatment center. Some health plans require a referral from the primary care physician for a consultation with a specialist. Insurers may also require that you choose from the plan's list of specialists and affiliated treatment centers, usually known as "in-network" specialists or treatment centers. Check with your health plan policy and speak with your health plan representative to understand the coverage provided by your plan.

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Choosing a Blood Cancer Specialist

Hematologists and oncologists are specialists who treat persons with leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative disorders. Pediatric hematologist oncologists treat children, adolescents and some young adults with blood cancers. The oncologist or hematologist oncologist coordinates a treatment and follow-up plan that involves other doctor s as well as nurses, social workers, case managers and nutritionists. This group of healthcare providers is often called the treatment team.

How to Find a Specialist

There are a number of ways to find a cancer specialist. You might start by asking your primary care physician for a recommendation. Family and friends can be good sources, too. Also consider contacting:

  • your community cancer center
  • your local medical society
  • doctor and health plan referral services
  • an information specialist at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (800-955-4572)

You can also find specialists at the following websites:

Questions to Help You Choose a Specialist

Once you've identified a potential blood cancer specialist(s), make an appointment for a consultation. Depending on your treatment needs, health plan coverage and family and work considerations, you may be able to consult with a number of specialists. When you meet with the doctor, take notes or record the meeting (ask the specialist if he or she minds) if you find it helpful. Or bring a family member or friend along to participate in the discussion, take notes and provide support.

Arrive at your appointment prepared with questions, such as:

  • Are you board certified and licensed?
  • Are you a member of any professional societies?
  • How much experience do you have treating patients with my disease?
  • Is your hospital, university, center or clinic accredited and experienced in treating blood cancers?
  • How long would I usually have to wait for appointments or to have my phone calls returned?
  • Will nurses, social workers and case managers be available to help me with support needs and quality-of-life concerns?
  • Are there any other hematologist oncologists with whom you would recommend I speak?
  • What types of things should I call you about? What types of things should I call my family doctor about?
  • How should I contact you with questions?
  • How do I contact you at night? On weekends? On holidays?

Download a printable list of questions to take with you on your appointments.

More to Explore

Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's free booklet Choosing a Blood Cancer Specialist or Treatment Center.

last updated on Monday, July 07, 2014

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