Type of Surgery

Background Checks - Choosing a Colorectal Cancer Surgeon

Last updated: 04/08/2009

Finding a Colorectal Cancer Surgeon
Remember that finding the right colorectal cancer surgeon is not one isolated incident. Because of the multi-part nature of most colorectal cancer treatment plans, you need not just a surgical specialist, but specialists also in chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Thus, your best bet is to search within very specific and very narrow medical communities. Finding a colorectal cancer surgeon who can work effectively in a team to treat your condition is the best way to go.
Starting Small
With the overwhelming number of medical professionals practicing in the United States today, the most difficult part of your search for a colorectal cancer surgeon may well be knowing where and how to begin. So don’t flood yourself with too much unnecessary information—start small and branch outwards.

First, location is likely a crucial factor. Due to the long, sequential nature of most cancer treatment plans, patients prefer not to commit to a surgeon whose location would require too much traveling. Filtering possibilities by your geographical search radius is a fruitful endeavor. On the topic of geographical convenience, it’s good to look up the surgical centers in your immediate vicinity. If you’re lucky, you might even find a center that specializes in colorectal cancer surgery in particular. These facilities are equipped with trained staff and unique equipment designed precisely for cases such as yours, and the overall experience at such a center is often smooth and pleasant.
Second, ask around for surgeon recommendations. Identify sources that you trust: these may be your family physician or general surgeon, but it can just as easily be someone who is not a medical professional. Friends and family who have undergone surgery for colorectal cancer can be a valuable sneak peek into the operating room, and you can be certain that their opinions will be subjective but honest.
Background Checks
Once you’ve settled upon a few likely candidates who are both geographically feasible and personally recommended, it’s time to perform a more thorough background check. Back up hearsay with some hard facts and numbers. First off, you want to know what medical credentials and awards a surgeon has received—where he or she was educated, performed his or her residency, received specialized training in surgical oncology or colorectal surgical oncology, and what societies and organizations he or she has been accepted into.
Second, do some investigation into each surgeon’s practicing history. A fancy diploma is well and good, but more pertinent to your interests is how a surgeon’s operations have turned out. Look into how frequently your surgeon performs colorectal surgeries, and how recently. How up-to-date are his or her techniques and the equipment that he or she uses? Last but not least, get an idea of the general success rate and patient satisfaction; though, take these with a grain of salt. Remember that for cancer surgeons, success is often predetermined by the stage and nature of the cancer that a patient comes in with.
Armed With Answers
Questions such as these are a great way to begin examining a surgeon’s abilities. But, there are plenty more—your case is unique, and your personal medical history should give rise to dozens of others. Inquisitiveness is never a fault when your health hangs in the balance.

Last Updated: 04/08/2009

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