Things to Consider When Choosing Where to Be Treated
A new lung cancer diagnosis—or any serious disease, for that matter— brings with it a host of new challenges, in addition to the prognosis itself. There are medical terms to learn, financial challenges, employment considerations and insurance uncertainties. One major decision lung cancer patients must resolve is where to undergo treatment. Finding the best treatment facility can significantly add to a patient’s stress level. Here are a few things to consider when selecting a treatment facility.
Teaching center versus community cancer center
Would you feel more comfortable being treated at a teaching center or a community cancer center? Many teaching cancer centers feature state-of- the-art medical equipment, brilliant physicians and contemporary techniques. On the other hand, teaching hospitals are known for, well, teaching.
In the small town where I was diagnosed with lung cancer, there was no thoracic surgeon. However, I worked at a university in a nearby city that had a teaching medical center. The teaching medical center was also designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute.
When I underwent surgery at the teaching center, a group of medical students made their rounds multiple times a day. Frankly, I appreciated the “safety in numbers” aspect of having the class discuss my case. However, some patients find a class of medical students to be off putting.
Teaching centers are not the only facilities with cutting edge equipment and bright doctors. Many community cancer centers are filled with highly-qualified, caring health care professionals.
Rankings, such as the U.S. News Rankings, are another factor some patients consider when selecting their facility. Or they may choose to get a second opinion at a top-ranked facility. Most, if not all, of the top ranked cancer centers are teaching facilities.
If you already have a good relationship with an oncologist, that relationship will go a long way in deciding where you go for treatment. Other factors, such as insurance coverage and geographic location, can significantly impact patient’s choices. It would be impractical to seek treatment at a facility hundreds of miles away or where the facility or physician is out of your insurance network.
Personal recommendations also influence patients. My colleagues encouraged me to seek treatment at the teaching hospital. A lung cancer survivor and friend of mine started a website named Survive It where patients can post reviews of their doctor and facility.
Also, family members may try to steer the patient toward a facility they like. Some patients may be attracted to a facility from television advertisements.
If you were diagnosed at one medical facility and want to either be treated or get a second opinion at a different facility, you will need to get copies of your medical records to take to the new facility. The first time I did that, I felt uncomfortable—as if it was rude to ask my local provider for my medical records so I could be treated elsewhere. It seems silly now, but at the time, it truly did take courage for me to seek treatment elsewhere. I am glad I did, though.
So while there are many things to consider when deciding where to be treated, here’s the bottom line. Some people feel comfortable in a community hospital setting. Some prefer a teaching university. The most important thing is that you need to be treated where YOU feel most comfortable.
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