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Frequently Asked Questions

Before contacting the Cancer Answerline™, scroll our Frequently Asked Questions

What can the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center offer to patients that they may not find elsewhere?

There are several benefits, including:

  • The resources of a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. This is important to you because it means the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center has passed a national review that documents its excellence in cancer research, education, and public information. Only 41 centers in the country have earned this distinction.
  • Top quality care from one of 23 premier centers in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Our doctors work with other top specialists to develop national treatment guidelines to ensure cancer care is consistent, high quality and cost effective.
  • More than 300 doctors and researchers with expertise in virtually all types of cancer in 24 specialized and multidisciplinary cancer care clinics.
  • State-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment including new therapies that may not yet be available in your community.
  • Everything you might need for your recovery: diagnosis, treatment, psychosocial support, pain management, rehabilitation and assistance in returning to your life after cancer.
  • The reassurance of knowing that the U-M Cancer Center is consistently highly ranked on U.S. News & World Report's list of "Top Hospitals for Cancer."

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How can I find out more about The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Contact our Cancer AnswerLine™. This free community service of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center is staffed by experienced registered oncology nurses who combine knowledge and compassion to provide personalized answers to your questions. Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses welcome inquiries from patients, family members or health care professionals about the unique diagnostic and treatment resources at the U-M Cancer Center. Our registered nurses offer information on the entire spectrum of cancer issues - prevention, risk reduction, warning signs, detection methods, treatment options, support services, clinical trials, assistance in arranging appointments and guidance to the appropriate resources. Brochures and other materials are sent upon request. The service is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

The nurses can be reached toll-free at 1-800-865-1125 or by email through the Cancer AnswerLine™ Communication Form.

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How do I make an appointment with a specialist at The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center?

For assistance in getting that first appointment, we invite you to contact the Cancer AnswerLine™. The type and stage of cancer, prior treatment and a number of other factors determine which specialists and clinics are most appropriate for a patient's current situation. For this reason, it is often best to speak directly with a Cancer AnswerLine™ nurse at 1-800-865-1125.

If you prefer, you may contact us on-line with your questions or complete the Cancer AnswerLine™ Communication Form if you are ready to schedule an appointment.

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What is meant by a specialty clinic or multidisciplinary team?

Patients are scheduled in one of the specialty or multidisciplinary cancer care clinics based on a number of factors, such as the type of service needed (diagnostic, initial treatment planning), the type and stage of cancer, and the patient's age (adult or child).

A multidisciplinary team consists of cancer specialists from diverse disciplines including surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology and pathology. Other subspecialties may be involved for some diagnoses. Teams also include health professionals such as nurses, social workers, physical therapists, registered dietitians and pharmacists. The goal is to provide thorough, accurate, and prompt evaluation for patients as early as possible following the diagnosis of cancer. One or more of the team doctors evaluates each patient. The team then comes together to discuss individual patient needs and develop a personalized treatment plan that takes into account all aspects of care - everything from prescribing the most appropriate tests or therapies to addressing educational needs and emotional concerns. The plan is then discussed with the patient, who is better able to make informed choices about the preferred course of care.

There are many patient situations which do not require the expertise of the entire team, so the most appropriate care is provided through a specialty clinic. Referrals are made to other specialists if needed.

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Will I have to wait a long time to get an appointment?

The wait time for an appointment will vary from clinic to clinic; however, every effort is made for the patient to be seen within 1-2 weeks. For extremely urgent problems, an earlier appointment may be arranged by your doctor through our Physician Consultation and Referral Service, M-LINE, have your doctor call 1-800-962-3555.

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All of my medical records are available to send to Michigan. Do I still have to make an appointment for a second opinion?

Yes, you will have to schedule an appointment at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., for your appointment. Our specialty doctors will need to see your medical records, pathology slides, X-rays/imaging studies and other tests, but will also want to evaluate you in person.

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What type of treatments do you offer?

A wide range of state-of-the-art treatment options are available in the form of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, or combinations of these and other therapies. Our patients have access to the highest quality treatments, often before they are available elsewhere. If you have questions about, or wonder if the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center offers a certain diagnostic test or specific cancer treatment, please contact the Cancer AnswerLine™ directly to have your questions answered.

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Does the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have any clinical trials available for my type of cancer?

Clinical trials are one very important reason that the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center is able to offer our patients access to the latest cancer treatments. The Cancer Center has, at any given time, about 150 clinical trials or research studies in progress. Each trial has specific criteria for participation based on type and state of disease. Note that, in many cases, standard treatments have been found to produce excellent outcomes, and participation in a clinical trial may not be called for. When you are evaluated in our cancer clinic, your doctor will discuss with you whether a clinical trial might be appropriate for your diagnosis and condition.

Please visit our Find a Clinical Trial web page for a list of clinical trials related to cancer.

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How do I know if I should get a second opinion?

Seeking a second opinion is a personal choice. There are several important reasons to consider another opinion; however, the main reason most patients seek a second opinion is reassurance that the first opinion is correct, and that all treatment options have been explored. A National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center or a major teaching facility such as the University of Michigan offers the advantage of specialized doctors, state-of-the-art technology, and new investigational therapies that may not be available in community hospitals.

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Will my insurance pay for a second opinion or treatment at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Many insurance companies pay for second opinions. Your best source of information about your specific coverage is the insurance company that issued your health insurance policy or your employer's benefits office (if you are covered under a group policy through work). For additional information regarding insurance coverage and your visit, see the Cancer Center's Financial Planning and Counseling services.

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How long will my appointment take?

First visits and second opinion appointments usually take between 2-6 hours. The time varies from clinic to clinic, and from patient to patient. Please feel free to ask the clinic staff when scheduling your appointment. Except in emergency situations, you should not expect to be admitted to the hospital on the day of your first visit. You may already have had many medical tests. Your Cancer Center doctor will review your previous test results, and may use them or may order new tests. We occasionally need to schedule follow-up X-rays, laboratory studies or biopsies. If so, these studies will be discussed with you at the time of your visit.

Most cancer treatment takes place in outpatient facilities and does not require overnight hospital stays. The amount of time you will need to stay varies from person to person. Your doctor will give you more specific information based on your individual treatment plan.

See The UMHS Patient Visitor Guide on topics such as getting here, what to bring, and accommodations.

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Can I have the treatment you recommend done in my hometown?

Whenever possible, cancer patients should be able to receive cancer care close to their home. Depending on the circumstances, most patients can be managed successfully at the community level. In many instances, patients receive part of their care at our Cancer Center and other therapy from their private doctors in medical facilities close to where they live. The University of Michigan has joined forces with community hospitals and physician practices to enhance patient care. Our Radiation Oncology Network has partnered with 7 centers throughout the state to bring breakthrough cancer treatments to patients as conveniently as possible. Visit the University of Michigan Radiation Oncology Network web pages for more information about locations, doctors and specialty services provided.

Your primary care or referring doctor is an important partner in your care and will provide health history and insight about your situation that are vital in the cancer treatment planning process. Communication between your private doctor and Cancer Center staff are important before, during and following cancer therapy.

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I've just been diagnosed with cancer and I'm feeling overwhelmed. I don't even really know what questions to ask - any advice?

The following steps are suggested to help you focus your thoughts and actions to make the best informed decisions for yourself:

  • Find a cancer specialist

    If you don't already have a cancer specialist, or would like to get a second opinion, contact the Cancer AnswerLine™ for a referral to our Cancer Center. You may wish to ask your family doctor for a referral, or ask friends or family members for names of cancer specialists in your area. The National Cancer Institute can provide information on designated cancer centers and the American Cancer Society also offers referral assistance.

  • Learn all you can

    Knowledge is your greatest asset when you must make decisions about your treatment. Ask questions of your doctors and other health care professionals; read, seeking out educational programs such as the "I Can Cope" series at the American Cancer Society; and talk to others who have had cancer.

  • Take care of yourself

    Continue to eat a healthful diet, exercise, keep your social contacts and activities.

  • Join a support group

    Cancer patient support groups exist in many communities. They can be an excellent source of information and emotional support. For a listing of University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center support groups visit our Support Groups page.

  • Talk honestly with your loved ones

    Your family and friends don't always know what to do or say. You can help them support you by being honest with them. Many support groups and much literature also exist that can help them understand their roles. If you would like to have cancer coping information mailed to you, we invite you to contact Cancer AnswerLine™ by phone 800-865-1125 or email.

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Is there any way to reduce my risk for developing cancer?

Research shows that certain risk factors can increase the chance that a person will develop cancer. The most common risk factors for cancer are:

  • Tobacco
  • Sunlight exposure
  • Ionizing radiation
  • Certain chemicals and other substances
  • Some viruses and bacteria
  • Certain hormones
  • Family history of cancer
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Poor diet, lack of physical activity, or being overweight

Many of these risk factors can be avoided. Others, such as family history, cannot be avoided. People can help protect themselves by staying away from known risk factors whenever possible.

If you think you may be at risk for cancer, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor. You may want to ask your doctor about reducing your personal risk and schedule a checkup.

See The National Cancer Institute's Cancer Causes and Risk Factors more information about cancer risk.

Source: The National Cancer Institute

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Who is the best doctor at the Comprehensive Cancer Center for my cancer?

Our center has more than 300 faculty members who specialize in virtually all types of cancers. Our center also has a number of multidisciplinary clinics to treat patients. This is a unique approach that brings specialists from many areas together in one location so that a patient can receive all the expert treatment recommendations in one visit without having to make a number of time-consuming appointments. This group approach also provides the best treatment advice for the patient because decisions are made jointly by all of the specialists. Whichever doctor you see, rest assured that you have the expertise of our entire team behind you.

Updated 02.2014

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