One of the most important actions anyone can take after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer is to find the right oncology care team. But where do you begin? And how do you choose?
Before my diagnosis, I had been to so many doctors and received so much conflicting information that, frankly, it was hard to know who to trust. After my primary care physician told me that I had ovarian cancer, I set up an appointment with my gynecologist (GYN). But I also took matters into my own hands—literally. My husband and I went online to find out as much as we could. We were anxious to have a treatment plan in place. We discovered (and my GYN confirmed) that I was in need of a specialist called a gynecologic oncologist.
Our research led us to the best hospitals and treatment centers in the country. The hospital to which I was referred was among the top ranked in my state, but was that good enough? We wondered if we should seek out one of the nationally renowned cancer treatment centers. There are many choices, which is good news for women with ovarian cancer, but making that choice can add more stress to an already tense situation.
How did I choose? My decision came down to these four important factors:
- Experience: My specialist had lots of hands-on experience with debulking surgeries and chemotherapy treatment.
- Knowledge: My specialist was associated with a teaching hospital, so I knew that he kept himself up to date on the latest treatments and clinical trials for ovarian cancer. He was also part of a team that met to discuss their cases, so I benefited from the expertise of his colleagues as well.
- Open communication: After our first meeting, I knew right away that I could trust my specialist. He didn’t sugarcoat things, which worked for me, and I felt comfortable talking openly and honestly with him.
- Confidence: Although it wasn’t necessary for me, when possible, I recommend that others seek a second opinion before committing to a specific doctor and course of treatment. A good doctor won’t mind if you get a second opinion. It’s important to have confidence in your medical team.
Before my diagnosis, I would have described myself as somewhat complacent about my healthcare. I would go along with whatever my doctor advised. Today I’m not afraid to rock the boat. My advice for any woman – or man – going through a major health challenge, like ovarian cancer: speak up when you know something doesn’t feel right; do your own research; ask lots of questions; and when you don’t trust the answers, get a second (or even third) opinion. These actions helped me choose the best care team and course of treatment for me.