James Metz, MD
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: November 1, 2001
A diagnosis of cancer can immediately turn a person's life upside down. Things begin to spiral out of control, and one feels as if they have lost command of both their body and their life. Autopilot goes on. It is exactly at this time that one of the most important decisions needs to be made - "Who will be my Oncologist?"
One of the first surprises that many cancer patients find is that they are really choosing a whole team of people, not just one oncologist. There may be a surgeon, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist all intimately involved in an individual's cancer care. There are also a slew of nurses, nurse practitioners, technicians, and other support staff that are all important members of the team. This may make the task of choosing the right team seem daunting. However, especially at institutions that treat cancer on a regular basis, many cancer teams are already assembled. Physicians who work well together will usually treat the same patients and refer patients to each other. Also, these physicians tend to put together a team with a "personality" similar to their own. You need to think of your physician as the quarterback; the leader of the team, but not more important than any of the other positions on the field. Quarterbacks try to surround themselves with good players, so everything runs smoothly and correctly. The quarterback also needs to choose players that he can trust to do the job correctly so the entire team works efficiently. Fortunately, this decision process may not be as difficult as it seems if you follow some basic guidelines.