How To Choose The Oncology Setting That Fits Your Needs
(This article is the second in a two-part series)
The NCI (National Cancer Institute) is an ideal place if you need an experimental protocol and have no insurance since the drugs will be given to you free of charge. In order to qualify for an NCI trial you have to meet the strict protocol criteria. You may want to search the internet on the NCI web site the ongoing trials to see if you meet the criteria(www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials). Also, it takes time before you register and are seen which means if you need immediate attention that a clinical trial may not be the ideal route for you. The drawback is that once you fail or complete the protocol, you are released by the institution and you have to find a doctor in the community that is going to take care of you.
As far as finding a private practitioner first of all, you want someone who is well informed on current treatments available. Board certification is very important, but in addition to that you want a “well read” physician who keeps up with the literature since the number of drugs being developed in oncology has sky rocketed and treatments are increasingly more effective and less toxic. You can choose large groups with large non private infusions rooms, some patients like to chat with neighbors while getting treatment. Or you can choose smaller groups or solo practices with private rooms you can share with family and friends only. Usually in the private practice setting you have more direct contact with your doctor and the treatment flow and timing is much more efficient. The availability of experimental protocols is more limited.
Based on your diagnosis, personality, treatment necessity and financial situation you should be able to find the perfect setting for you. Remember, YOU ARE THE CUSTOMER, if you are not satisfied you can change. If you feel overwhelmed and you think you may not be able to decide, bring with you someone who can function as your “advocate” preferably with a medical background. You can always seek a second opinion if you are not satisfied or feel your needs have changed.