Questions to Ask When Searching for Oncology Doctors Near You

Oncology doctors in Warrensburg

A cancer diagnosis evokes many reactions. Questions can pour out like a flood, with seemingly no simple answers. 

Do I need a second opinion? How will this diagnosis affect me and my loved ones? What kind of treatment will I require? Who will guide me through my treatment?

Western Missouri Medical Center is passionate about helping our patients through difficult times. With that goal in mind, we opened the Western Missouri Cancer Center on April 5, 2021, to better serve our patients with experienced oncology doctors in Warrensburg. 

This clinic is a significant step forward for WMMC. It supports the hospital’s mission to be the regional preferred provider of exceptional healthcare services. 

Below, we address some important questions to ask when searching for oncology doctors near you. We also highly recommend reaching out to WMMC, where one of our experienced medical professionals will help answer all of your questions. 

What is an oncologist?

Simply put, an oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating patients with cancer. Oncology breaks down into three major areas: medical, surgical, and radiation.

Medical

A medical oncologist treats cancer using chemotherapy or other medications, such as targeted therapy or immunotherapy. This role is typically the primary care provider for patients with cancer. 

Surgical

A surgical oncologist specializes in treating cancer through surgical methods. They typically remove the tumor and nearby tissue during surgery, an effective way of removing cancerous growths associated with multiple types of cancers. 

Radiation

A radiation oncologist specializes in the use of radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses targeted and regulated doses of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells.

Different oncologists often work together when devising a patient’s treatment plan. They typically employ a combination of medical, surgical, and radiation oncology for the most effective cancer treatments. 

The Western Missouri Cancer Center came from a recognition that the best cancer treatment requires an array of specialists with highly focused knowledge. By working with Midamerica Cancer Care, WMMC can provide oncology services that adapt to our patients’ growing needs. 

Renowned and board-certified cancer specialist Jaswinder Singh, MD, leads the Western Missouri Cancer Center specialty team. He is joined by Dr. Preethi Ramchandran, a hematologist-oncologist specialist who is board certified in internal medicine, and Shea Fijal, FNP-BC, who has dedicated her career to caring for underserved populations. 

Role of an oncologist

The primary role of an oncologist is managing a patient’s care throughout treatment. This starts with initial diagnosis and includes:

  • Explaining your diagnosis and the stage of your cancer
  • Explaining treatment options and recommendations
  • Helping you manage symptoms and side effects of your cancer and its treatment 

Patients of Western Missouri Cancer Center can also rest easy knowing their care is in the hands of the most qualified oncology doctors in Warrensburg and Western Missouri. Our providers deliver quality and compassionate care while keeping you informed of your condition throughout the course of your treatment. 

What to ask before starting oncology care

A cancer diagnosis likely comes with a referral to an oncologist. Patients understandably have a lot of questions about their future care. When searching for an oncologist, here are a few questions to consider and why they are helpful. 

How much experience do you have with my specific type of cancer? 

Even for oncologists with years in practice, it’s important to know they have experience treating your specific kind of cancer. 

Are you board certified? 

Board-certified oncologists have passed a series of high-level exams related to cancer treatment as well as peer evaluation, on top of a residency and oncology fellowship. 

Do your patients have access to clinical trials?

A clinical trial is a research study where patients can volunteer for treatment. Dr. Jaswinder Singh, head of the Western Missouri Cancer Center, is an advocate for clinical trials and believes in their benefits for his patients. 

Who else will be involved in my care?

Many kinds of cancer require multiple oncology specialists for care. Finding a health care center that has many different specialists in house is crucial, so you don’t have to split care between multiple facilities. Patients at Western Missouri Cancer Center have the benefit of many different oncology services under one roof, thanks to our partnership with Midamerica Cancer Care. 

Do you take my insurance?

Not every insurance plan allows you to pick any doctor you like. It’s important to make sure your oncologist is in your insurance network, even when referred to the specialist by your general practitioner. Your insurance should provide a list of doctors who are in network for your specific coverage. 

Should I seek a second opinion?

Many patients might desire a second opinion after a cancer diagnosis. It’s important to learn as much as you can before deciding on treatment options, but redoing tests and getting a second opinion can take time that you might not have, depending on your diagnosis. 

Reasons a patient should consider a second opinion include:

  • Exploring all treatment options
  • Confirming the severity of your diagnosis
  • Rare or unusual forms of cancer
  • Uncertainty in diagnosis from primary care doctor
  • Peace of mind that diagnosis is correct
  • Insurance requires a second opinion before beginning treatment 

What to expect from your first oncology appointment

Before heading into your first appointment with an oncology doctor, it’s good to know what’s coming. When scheduling your appointment, make sure to ask questions like:

  • Will a physical exam be involved?
  • Is this meeting focused more on information and discussion, or will I be going through tests?
  • What material do I need to bring?

Check out this list from the American Society of Clinical Oncology for a more comprehensive breakdown of pre-appointment questions. 

During your initial appointment, take some time to get to know the people providing you with care. Cancer is scary, no matter the diagnosis, so the oncology doctors in Warrensburg at Western Missouri Cancer Center will take the time to get to know you on a personal level. We are dedicated to providing high-quality care to the people of Western Missouri, and part of that involves building relationships with each patient we treat. 

Determining treatment

In your initial oncology appointment, your doctor will go over treatment options for your situation. These treatment options range from surgery to chemotherapy and other targeted medications. For many patients, a combination of surgical, medical, and radiation treatment provides the most effective results. 

Each patient is different, so even for similar diagnoses, the treatment plan might differ. It’s important to discuss all your treatment options with your doctor to find the right plan for your situation. 

Prepare for side effects

Each cancer treatment comes with its own potential downsides. While going over treatment plans, discuss these possible side effects with your doctor so you have a better understanding of what to expect. 

Cancer side effects may be temporary or short-term, like nausea from chemotherapy, but there are also lingering side effects that could persist beyond treatment. Surgical options also come with different risks, including changes to your appearance or certain bodily functions. 

When to start treatment

Depending on the severity of your diagnosis, it might not be necessary to immediately start treatment. In fact, in some cases, it might be better to observe the progress of slower-growing cancers, rather than immediately start invasive treatment plans. Your doctor will discuss all of your options during your initial appointments and make recommendations depending on the stage and severity of your cancer. 

Clinical trials

Some types of cancer diagnoses might be eligible for participation in a clinical trial. These research-based trials can position you for state-of-the-art therapy that might not be available outside of the trial. 

Dr. Jaswinder Singh, Medical Director of the Western Missouri Cancer Center, is a strong advocate for clinical trials and their benefits for his patients. 

Determining your prognosis

With your treatment options, your doctor may also provide you with realistic statistics about patients with similar diagnosis. Not every patient wants to know these numbers, but everyone deserves a chance to know the odds they face if they are interested. Asking your oncologist some tough questions might provide peace of mind, or it might bring a new perspective to your treatment options. 

Trust the oncology doctors in Warrensburg at Western Missouri Cancer Center with your cancer care

There’s no need to travel the cancer treatment journey alone. WMMC and the Western Missouri Cancer Center have you covered with the best care in the Warrensburg area. By partnering with MidAmerica Cancer Care, we can provide oncology services that give WMMC more autonomy to lead the vision for cancer care and adapt to the growing needs of our patients. 

Dr. Jaswinder Singh and his team of highly skilled oncology specialists can tackle a variety of cancer diagnoses, all with the professional service and individual care patients expect from WMMC. 

As a not-for-profit county medical center, we offer comprehensive health care services to residents of Johnson County and west central Missouri. We strive to improve the health of our greater community by providing quality healthcare services, exceeding our patients’ expectations. 

Make us your preferred regional healthcare provider. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and see how WMMC goes above and beyond for all of our patients. 

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