Listen to the Cancer.Net Podcast: Choosing an Oncologist , adapted from this content.
Watch the Cancer.Net Video: Choosing an Oncologist, with John Sweetenham, MD , adapted from this content.
- After a cancer diagnosis, it is important find a cancer doctor you feel confident and comfortable with.
- To find a cancer doctor, talk with your primary care doctor, family and friends, and health insurance company or search online.
- Be sure to ask questions of a prospective doctor to see if you'll feel comfortable working with him or her.
It is likely that the doctor who diagnosed your cancer referred you to an oncologist; a doctor who specializes in treating people with cancer. The oncologist is likely to influence every aspect of your care, so it is important to feel both confident and comfortable with this person. He or she will also be working closely together with you, your family, and support staff throughout treatment to provide you with the best care possible.
Oncologists practice in different settings, such as university hospitals, cancer centers, community hospitals, and local offices. To find an oncologist, talk with your primary care or family doctor, your health insurance company, or the local hospital. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) provides a free, searchable database  of ASCO member oncologists who wish to make their information public. Other medical associations, such as the American Board of Medical Specialties , the American Medical Association , and the American College of Surgeons  also offer searchable databases of doctors. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services offers a searchable database  of physicians who accept Medicare.
It may be wise to collect several names of prospective doctors, because you may want a second or even a third opinion before you select your oncologist and begin treatment. Read more about seeking a second opinion .
Here are some tips to help you find an oncologist:
- Find a doctor that treats your specific type of cancer . You may also need a specific type of oncologist or more than one oncologist, such as a radiation oncologist or medical oncologist. Learn more about the types of oncologists .
- Find out whether the doctor participates in your health insurance plan. Many insurance plans allow their members to look up doctors by name or specialty. Or, the doctor's office staff can tell you which insurance plans are accepted.
- Talk about your choice with family and friends. Ask what doctors they have seen and what their experiences were. Talk with other patients that you might know who are being treated for the same type of cancer.
- Look into the doctor's credentials. Find out if he or she received advanced training and if the doctor is board certified in oncology, which means he or she has passed a high-level examination.
- Ask how long the doctor has been in practice. Find out how many patients with your type of cancer the doctor treats each year. For rare types of cancer or specialized treatments, it may be especially important to find doctors that have experience treating this type of cancer.
- Ask whether the doctor has access to research therapies and clinical trials  (research studies involving people).
- Find out whether there is support staff in the office, such as a registered nurse (RN), and ask how they are involved in your care (such as giving treatment). Also, ask if there are other professionals, such as a social worker, nutritionist, pharmacist, and counselor, and how often you might interact with them. Learn more about members of the health care team .
- Find out how to reach the doctor on weekends and holidays.
- Ask whether the treatments are given in the office or at a different location, and consider how often you'll need to travel there during your treatment .
- Ask about special services for patients, such as reserved parking spaces.
If possible, you may want to arrange for a consultation to meet the doctor and the staff, either in the office or by phone. This may help you get a sense of how comfortable you are with this doctor, whether he or she answers your questions, and talks with you in a way that you understand.