Okay real quick, if I were to ask basketball or even non-basketball fans, who is the best player in the world today, I bet a vast majority would answer within a few seconds, LeBron James.
If I were to ask who the best NFL quarterback is today, the answer might be split between two or three players, like New England’s Tom Brady, and Green Bay’s Aaron Rogers. Indeed, we do know our athletes. Similarly, if I were to ask questions about who are the biggest box office movie stars, we could probably narrow that list down pretty easily too.
Okay real quick, who is the best colorectal cancer doctor in the country? Or which is the best hospital for breast cancer? How about name a top ten doctor or hospital for lung cancer? Top twenty? Fifty? A sports fan wouldn’t want the fiftieth best pitcher in the league starting on his fantasy baseball team, why would you want the fiftieth best surgeon operating on your ass? Or your lung, liver, brain, esophagus, thyroid or breast?
It is true that to make it to the major leagues of any sport you have to be a great athlete. Similarly, to be a doctor you have to have put in a lot of work and demonstrate some measure of intelligence or retained knowledge. But just like there is a huge gap between someone barely hanging on in the major leagues of a sport, to the good, great, and best of the best athletes in the same sport, so to is there a difference in doctors and hospitals.
If you were putting together a baseball dream team with the obvious objective of being in a position to win as many games as possible, would you want an average pitching staff or a great one? A starting pitching rotation is generally made up of five pitchers. The first one is known as the staff’s “Ace”. Many baseball experts suggest, you cannot win a championship unless you have a legitimate Ace.
For the purposes of cancer, think of the Ace as your Surgeon, or Oncologist. Yes there are lots of average or good ones…But in a fight for your life, do you want an average or good one? Or do you want the best possible option you can find? Do you want an Ace? Sounds like easy and obvious questions to answer in theory, but ones I am guessing many don’t put into practice.
Simple math tells us that the better doctor is less likely to make a mistake. If a baseball pitcher makes a mistake and leaves a pitch over the plate, maybe a guy gets a hit or even a home run. This mistake could possibly cost the pitcher one game. A cancer doctor makes a mistake and you could possibly die or have serious complications. And just in case you are thinking well how often do doctors or hospitals make mistakes? Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
Think all human bodies and surgery’s are the same? Here is a link to a random article I came across while working on this blog: What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About Surgery.
But cancer care is usually about more than surgery. (And may not include surgery.) Depending on the type and stage of cancer a person has, a cancer dream team should be made up of a variety of different doctors and specialists. Here is a list to consider provided by the American Cancer Society.
So if you agree that finding the best possible hospital and or doctor is important but aren’t sure how to go about the search, here are some links to consider.
Health Insight hospital rankings by state are here.
It will cost a few bucks, but consumer reports rates hospitals here.
Medicare.Gov offers some information on medicare approved hospitals.
To find a cancer center you can go to the National Cancer Institute.
Rare cancers can be of particular concern. God forbid one strikes, you want to know how many times a surgeon you may be considering has performed a procedure, as success and failure rates can hinge upon experience. Again, would you want a rookie pitcher pitching game one in the world series? A doctor may be older but if he or she only performs the procedure you need three times a year, he or she is the equivalent of being a medical rookie.
Please don’t assume you don’t have the time, insurance coverage, or resources to explore this. If it turns out that you don’t have the time or resources to go out-of-state or get to the best, you may still be able to consult with the top hospitals/doctors, by sending them copies of test results and scans, and get a much-needed second opinion. Further, maybe they can link you to a provider they know of that is in your area that may still be an upgrade over who you are currently seeing.
I really like and trust the primary doctor I have seen for about 15 years, doesn’t mean he knows the best surgeons or oncologists. I will listen and consider whatever his recommendations are, but blindly trust? Never… Not if and when the stakes are that high. I think my loved ones and I am worth an extra phone call or two and some research if and when we are in that situation. What about you? God forbid you ever need it but if you do, are you worth an extra phone call or two?
For more information on this topic and questions to consider asking, and more, see my previous post: If A Doctor Says You Have Cancer
More links to consider:
- Open to options – Provides, information, videos and support community to help make decisions post diagnosis.
- How To Find The Best Treatment Center – Blog post on WebMd.
- Making The Most of Social Media – Previous blog post with lots of links that can help you put together your team and any questions you may have.
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