Selecting a Specialist
Your child is special. Your child's care should be too. Choosing a specialist when your child has a scary illness or disorder can feel completely overwhelming, especially when that diagnosis includes words like cancer or life threatening. Where do you even begin?
Childhood cancer and certain blood disorders in children can be extremely rare. And even those that are found in adults require a very different approach when it comes to treating kids, teens, and young adults. Choosing a board-certified pediatric specialist for your child's care ensures that your doctor has highly specialized training both in your child's diagnosis and in treating that diagnosis specifically in children.
Survival rates for childhood cancer have risen sharply over the past 25 years. In the United States, more than 80 percent of children with cancer are alive 5 years after diagnosis, compared with about 62 percent in the mid-1970s (1). Much of this dramatic improvement is due to the development of improved therapies at children's cancer centers, where the majority of children with cancer have their treatment.
Cook Children's Hematology and Oncology center specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and after care of children, adolescents and young adults. Our cancer center meets the very strict and exacting standards set forth by the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Children's Oncology Group (COG), the American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines for Pediatric Cancer Centers and the established requirements set forth by the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology for programs treating children with cancer and blood disorders.
A team of specialists
These standards include a team of trained pediatric oncologists, pediatric surgeons, specialist surgeons such as neurosurgeons and urologic surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists, pediatric anesthesiologists, nurses, clinical pharmacists, consulting pediatric specialists, psychiatrists, oncology social services team, nutritionists and home health care professionals. All with expertise in treating children and adolescents with cancer.
In addition to choosing a specialist who is associated with a children's cancer center, following are some helpful suggestions in how to choose the specialist that is right for your child and your family.
Where do you begin?
A good place to start is with your pediatrician. He or she is familiar with your child, your family, and your child's diagnosis and prognosis. Your pediatrician also knows which doctors specialize in your child's illness or disorder and which hematology and oncology centers can provide access to care, treatment, and if needed, clinical trials. It is alright to ask for more than one recommendation to ensure that you find a good match.
As a COG-designated cancer center, the team here at Cook Children's Hematology and Oncology Center, gladly takes calls and assists with referrals. We also invite parents and patients to schedule a visit, tour our center and meet with specialists from our team of experts.
Another resource for finding a children's cancer center is calling the NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER to learn about children's cancer centers that belong to the COG. Like Cook Children's, all of the cancer centers that participate in these groups have met strict standards of excellence for childhood cancer care. You may also access a directory of COG institutions by state at www.curesearch.org/resources/cog.aspx.
Questions to ask the specialist
It helps to make a list of the things that are important to you and to your child. The following questions provide a good starting point. Of course, you will probably have questions unique to your situation, so you can add those to the list.
- Is the specialist board-certified in pediatric oncology and/or hematology?
- Does he or she treat your child's specific diagnosis?
- Based on your child's diagnosis, will you need more than one type of specialist?
- Is there is a support group where you can talk to other parents whose children have the same diagnosis as your child?
- Is there an affiliation with a hematology/oncology cancer center?
- How long has the doctor been in practice?
- How many patients with your child's type of cancer does the doctor treat each year?
- Does the doctor have access to the most current research therapies and clinical trials?
- How easy is it to reach the doctor? Will you have after-hours and weekend access?
- During your consult/interview, did the doctor answer your questions? How well did the doctor relate to your child? Did he or she explain things in a way that you could understand?
- Does the doctor consider the family as part of the health care team?
- Will you be included in treatment and care decisions?
- What if the cancer center is far from home? Is there a social services team to help with locating resources such as transportation, lodging, and financial assistance?
We are here to help.
If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-4007.