Finding a New Doctor

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2021

At some point during your cancer treatment or follow-up care, you may need to search for a new doctor. There are many reasons why you may need a new doctor. For example, if your doctor retires, if you or your doctor needs to move, if your health insurance changes, or if you do not feel like you and your health care team are a good fit.

Your relationship with your oncologist and health care team is an important one. You may be upset or anxious about finding a new doctor. Finding new health care providers means reviewing the details of your diagnosis and previous treatment and getting to know new office staff. It may take time to create new relationships, but you can take steps to find a new doctor that you trust and feel comfortable with.

How to find a new doctor for your cancer care

First, make a list of possible doctors. Consider using these ideas to create that list:

  • Ask the doctor currently overseeing your cancer care and/or your primary care doctor to recommend other doctors in your area or in the area where you are moving.

  • Call your health insurance plan's member services line to ask for a list of doctors that specialize in the kind of medical care you need. This information may also be available on your insurance plan's website.

  • Call local hospitals and ask about their physician referral service.

  • Review the list of National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers. Your nearest cancer center can provide information on doctors who practice at that center.

  • Ask for recommendations from family members, friends, members of a support group, cancer-specific patient advocacy group, or other people you know who have had cancer.

  • Search online physician directories. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) provides a free, searchable database of ASCO member oncologists. Other medical associations, such as the American Medical Association and the American College of Surgeons, provide online directories as well.

Choosing a new doctor

Once you have your list of potential doctors, think about the following questions to help you make a choice:

  • What are the doctor's credentials? Are they board certified?

  • What is their education, training, and number of years in practice?

  • What is their experience with the type of cancer you have?

  • How many patients with this type of cancer does the doctor see each year?

  • Do they participate in your health insurance plan?

  • Are they accepting new patients?

  • How convenient are the office hours and location, including parking and/or public transportation options?

  • Does the office have support staff that help with patient care?

  • How easy is it to get an appointment or speak with the doctor?

  • Who handles emergencies when the doctor is not available?

You may be able to get some of this information from the person who referred you. You can also contact the doctor's office directly. It may be possible to schedule an individual consultation with each doctor you are considering to find answers to these questions. If you currently live too far away to meet in person, ask if you can speak with them on the phone or by video chat. Keep in mind that you may be charged for the doctor's time and that the charge may not be covered by your health insurance.

In addition to getting answers to your questions at a consultation, you can see if you will work well with the new doctor. During your first meeting, take note of how comfortable you feel with them. Note whether the provider treats you respectfully, talks to you in a way you can understand, takes their time with you, and if they encourage and answer your questions.

This information will help you decide which doctor is right for you. Trust your instincts. Even when you feel like you made the right decision, it can take time for you and your new doctor to develop a comfortable relationship. Remember, if you are not happy with your choice at any time, you have the tools to switch to a different doctor.

What information does your new doctor need?

Once you have chosen a new doctor, you will need to transfer your medical records from your current doctor's office. Ask the office staff how to do this. Usually, you need to give written permission allowing the office to copy and transfer your records. Also, consider asking for your own copy of your personal medical records. Some offices may charge a fee to copy your records for personal use.

Related Resources

Choosing a Doctor for Your Cancer Care

Choosing a Cancer Treatment Facility

Taking Charge of Your Care

More Information

National Cancer Institute: Finding Health Care Services