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Questions to Ask When Interviewing Oncologists

Questions to Ask When Interviewing Oncologists

Reviewed by Jasper Clinical Board

Last updated 5/24/21


After you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you may be advised to find an oncologist, the type of doctor who treats cancer and provides medical care for a person diagnosed with cancer. You can get recommendations from the provider who first discovered the cancer, a friend or family member who has had cancer, or by calling a local cancer center for help. Because cancer is not one disease, but many, there are multiple specialties within oncology (patient advocacy groups that specialize in treating people with the type of cancer you have can be a good starting point for finding the right match for you). 
After identifying an oncologist with experience in treating your specific type of cancer, you’ll want to interview this person to determine if they are best suited for your needs and situation. By gathering more information about potential oncologists, you can make a decision that allows you to feel confident about the care you’ll receive.
To get you started, here are some questions you might ask. Know that it’s perfectly okay to bring a pen and paper to take notes, to record the conversation, or to bring a companion into the meeting to help you listen, take notes, and gather more information. In addition, always feel free to ask for clarification on terms you don’t understand.
  1. Where did you receive your training and complete your residency and fellowship? 
  2. In what specialty did you receive medical board certification?
  3. How long have you been in practice as an oncologist?  [Don’t write off a young doctor; they’ve received all the latest training. What you do want to know, if your physician has been practicing for just a few years, is who they consult with in tough cases. Ideally, you’d like there to be a more senior doctor they’re in close contact with as well.]
  4. How much experience do you have working with patients with my specific cancer? [If at all possible, try to find a doctor who has a lot of experience seeing patients in your exact situation.]
  5. [If they are not very experienced working with people with the type of cancer you have, you might ask:] Can you refer me to someone you know who has a lot of experience working with patients with the same cancer I have?
  6. Is this cancer center accredited by the Commission on Cancer, National Cancer Institute or National Comprehensive Cancer Network?  What accreditations does it have, and what do they mean?
In addition to the above questions, here are some additional things to consider:
  1. Take note of the doctor’s personality and manner and decide whether, given all you know about them, this feels like the right fit for you.  This is a subjective decision; some people want a doctor who thinks and replies fast, even if they seem abrupt and seem rushed.  Others want a physician who makes them feel as though they have all the time in the world to thoroughly answer every question. 
  2. Find out about the clinic and doctor’s policies around billing, missing visits, and adherence to medication.
  3. Ask about how you’ll be communicating with the doctor and clinic—patient portal, email, phone, etc.
  4. Find out what kinds of additional support the office can offer you (a nurse case manager, a financial manager, a social worker, a wig salon, support groups, etc.).

The content on this website is intended to provide the best possible information for you, but should not be considered—or used as a substitute for—medical advice. If you have questions about your diagnosis or treatment, please contact your health care provider(s). For questions or comments about this content, please email us at support@jasperhealth.com.