Q. How do I find doctors who specialize in treating melanoma?

A.

Finding a doctor who specializes in melanoma and skin cancers can significantly improve the recovery process and cancer survivorship. It’s important to find a doctor who understands the intricacies and dynamics of living with a melanoma diagnosis. You want to find a doctor who regularly treats melanoma and can address the needs of people living with this type of cancer. A dermatologist, for instance, would be more informed about melanoma. Although a doctor’s personality should not impact treatment, it can be extremely helpful if we feel comfortable speaking with our doctor.

To find a doctor who specializes in treating melanoma you may first want to consult with your primary care physician and request a referral. Your family members, friends or colleagues may know of a doctor who specializes in this type of cancer. A representative from your health insurance company may also assist you in seeking a doctor whose specialty is melanoma. Speaking with your insurance representative would also help you understand your coverage and learn whether or not you would be allowed to go out of network to see a specialist.

Understanding your doctor’s credentials and training can be helpful in making educated decisions regarding your diagnosis and treatment. Pay attention to a doctor’s credentials and don’t be afraid to ask about his/her education and training. Some doctors including dermatologists may choose additional training in their specialty.

When searching for a doctor, some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Does this doctor have the appropriate education and training to address my type of cancer?
  • Will this doctor listen to my needs and treat me with respect?
  • Does this doctor clearly explain treatment options to me that I understand and encourage me to ask questions about my diagnosis and treatment?
  • Do I feel as if I am an important part of the medical team?

Finding the right treatment facility for you is equally as important to finding the right doctor. Locating a comprehensive cancer center, for instance, may provide access to a number of doctors to whom you could reach out and learn about treatment options and alternatives for you to consider.

In discussing your melanoma diagnosis, questions to ask include:

  • How large is the tumor and has it metastasized?
  • Will surgery alone be able to remove the cancer or will I need additional treatment?
  • What are the treatments available for my type of cancer?
  • Are there any potential side effects related to my treatment?
  • Am I at risk for a recurrence of melanoma or other type of cancer?
  • How frequently will I have to follow up with you?

And finally, the American Academy of Dermatology provides a Find a Dermatologist database through their website.