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Where Do I Find the Best Care?

We are often asked which doctor to see or where to go for treatment. The fact is there is no answer that is right for everyone. Some patients have the resources and desire to get their care at a major cancer center. Others want to get their treatment close to home or feel a smaller center provides more personalized care. The goal for every patient should be to find the best care possible for their situation. Here are some tips for finding the best care for you.

Finding a cancer center with a lung cancer treatment program

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to finding a cancer center. Your goal is should be to find a facility that treats a lot of lung cancer with a healthcare team that you feel comfortable with. A center that has a lung cancer team or program is preferred. 

Click here to see our list of lung cancer treatment teams or programs!  

If there is not a lung cancer-specific program near you, there are some things you should look for when choosing a cancer center. A multidisciplinary approach to treatment is a must, as is a center that treats a lot of lung cancer and understands the latest research and guidelines for treating the disease. A social worker or patient navigator to help you find the support and resources you need is a plus, as is the availability of a lung cancer-specific support group.

A multidisciplinary team approach is when a surgeon, oncologist, radiologist, nurse, social worker and others meet to discuss your situation and work together to make treatment recommendations. It is thought that this team approach improves coordination of care and communication among the medical professionals caring for you. Remember, you are also a member of the team and the decisions about treatment are ultimately yours to make.

If you have trouble identifying where to go for treatment or need help finding a second opinion facility, call our toll-free information line at 1-800-298-2436 or e-mail  support@lungcanceralliance.org. We are here to help you find the best care possible.

Finding a doctor

You may be referred to a cancer doctor (oncologist) or you may find one on your own. Your oncologist may be with a cancer center or in private practice. You may decide to go to a specific cancer center and find an oncologist that way. If possible, we suggest finding an oncologist who specializes in lung cancer. Even if it’s not their only specialty, a doctor who has lung cancer as an area of interest or expertise is likely to have a lot of experience treating it compared to someone who does not. This applies to surgeons too. Lung cancer surgery is best done by a thoracic surgeon who specializes in general surgery to the chest (thoracic surgery) rather than one who does both heart and lung surgery (cardiothoracic surgery).


Getting a second opinion

Getting a second opinion is always a good idea. Doing so can serve two purposes: If the second opinion is the same as the first, it can confirm that your first doctor is on the right track. If it is different than the first, it can open up choices that you might not have considered. Either way, it is important that you feel comfortable about getting a second opinion. Some people fear that their doctor will be insulted if they ask for a second opinion. A doctor should understand that second opinions are valuable to make sure you have explored all your treatment options and some actually suggest that you get a second opinion. If your doctor feels threatened or offended when you want a second opinion, it may make you rethink your relationship.

When is especially important to get a second opinion?

  • If you have been given no hope. It may be that your cancer is advanced and there are sound medical reasons why it cannot be treated. But far too often, a doctor will say nothing can be done without giving the person the choice to try.
  • If you are diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer and have been told surgery is not an option. There are many situations in which surgery is not possible--most stage IV cancers or earlier stages when the cancer is located in a difficult area or other medical conditions make it impossible. However, talking with a surgeon who specializes in lung cancer is important just to be sure.
  • If you have concerns about your healthcare team. You have the right to compassionate care and  need to have enough information about your treatment options to be able to make good decisions

Not all second opinions will make decision-making easier. Your second opinion doctor may offer a choice that is completely different from the first. Some people even get third and fourth opinions from doctors who are highly regarded in their field, with each doctor suggesting something different. Just because two doctors differ in their approach does not always mean that one way is better than the other. You may reach a point where you simply have to go with what makes the most sense to you.