Finding an oncologist

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Usually, parents do not have the luxury of time in choosing a pediatric oncologist. At diagnosis, the family is usually referred to the nearest pediatric center of excellence. The young patient may be assigned the fellow or attending who happens to be on call at the time of diagnosis.

During induction and consolidation, your child may see a myriad of doctors. A permanent assignment is usually made for all outpatient treatment. Be sure that you are working with an oncologist who works with the Children's Oncology Group (COG). Your child's chance for a cure may depend on getting the most up-to-date treatments available.

Often the assignment of oncologist is a good match, and the family finds the doctor to be easy to communicate with, competent, and caring. When choosing your childs oncologist, here are several traits to look for:

• Board-certified in the field of pediatric oncology.

• Establishes good rapport with child.

• Communicates clearly and compassionately.

• Skillful in performing procedures.

• Answers all questions.

• Consults with other doctors on complex problems.

• Uses language that is easy to understand.

• Makes available the results of all tests.

• Acknowledges parents' right to make decisions.

• Respects parents' values.

• Able to deliver the truth with hope.

I've been very lucky that our doctors have been very open with us. When Samantha was first diagnosed, our doctor spent two hours explaining and answering our questions, and it has never stopped. Even if we haven't asked, but the doctors notice concern in our face, they sit and take the time to find out our worries. They've all been great— the nurses, hospital, and support staff.

If you don't develop a good rapport with the physician assigned to you, ask to be assigned to a different physician you may have met on rounds or during clinic visits.

Most parents are accommodated, for hospitals realize the importance of good communication between family and physician. You will, however, still see different physicians, because many institutions have rotating physicians on call.

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