Frequently Asked Questions About Cancer

For your convenience, we have listed several questions that are frequently asked by patients and their families. Please know that you can call the University of Michigan Cancer AnswerLine at 1-800-865-1125 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., ET, Monday through Friday.

Appointments

How do I make an appointment with at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Please call the Cancer AnswerLine at 800-865-1125. 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.

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

We will make every effort to see you within one to two weeks, but the wait time will vary from clinic to clinic. For extremely urgent problems, ask your doctor to call our Physician Consultation and Referral Service, M-Line, 800-962-3555.

How long will my appointment take?

The time varies from clinic to clinic, and from patient to patient. When scheduling your appointment, please feel free to ask how long it should take.

Will I need more tests?

Your physician will review your previous test results, and may use them and/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.

Will I have to stay overnight?

Most cancer treatment takes place in outpatient facilities and does not require overnight hospital stays. You should not expect to be admitted to the hospital on the day of your first visit. Your doctor will give you more specific information based on your individual treatment plan.

More information

See the UMHS Patient Visitor Guide for more information about how to get here, what to bring, etc.

Recent Diagnosis 

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 UMCCC referral. You may wish to ask your family doctor for a referral, ask friends and 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, 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

Many cancer patient support groups exist. 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 e-mail.

What can you do for me?

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

  • Reassurance: The U-M Cancer Center consistently ranks in the top ten on the US News & World Report’s list of “Top Hospitals for Cancer.”
  • State-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment, including new therapies that may not yet be available in your community
  • The resources of one of the 40 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the U.S.
  • Top-quality care from one of 19 premier centers in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network who work together to develop national treatment guidelines to ensure the delivery of consistent, high-quality, cost-effective cancer care
  • Over 300 clinicians and researchers who provide expertise in virtually all types of cancer in 24 specialized and multidisciplinary Cancer Care Clinics
  • Everything you might need for your recovery: diagnosis, treatment, psychosocial support, pain management, rehabilitation and assistance in returning to your life after cancer

Treatments 

What type of treatments do you offer?

We offer a wide range of state-of-the-art treatment options 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 wonder if the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center offers a certain diagnostic test or specific cancer treatment, please contact the Cancer AnswerLine at 800-865-1125.

Can I have the treatment you recommend in my hometown?

In many instances, patients receive part of their care at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and other therapy from their private physicians in medical facilities close to where they live.

U-M has joined forces with a group of community hospitals and physician practices to enhance patient care. See the Michigan Medicine Partnerships and Affiliations and Radiation Oncology Network webpages for more information about locations, physicians and specialty services provided.

Your primary care and/or referring physician 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 physician and UMCCC staff are important before, during and following cancer therapy.

Where will I be seen?

Patients are seen 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, age, adult or pediatric cancer, etc.

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

What is a multidisciplinary team?

A multidisciplinary team consists of cancer specialists from diverse disciplines including surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology, pathology, and for some diagnoses, other subspecialties.

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 physicians evaluates each patient. The team then comes together to discuss individual patient needs and to 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 able to make informed choices about the preferred course of care.

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

Our center has more than 300 faculty members who specialize in 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.

Second Opinion 

Will my health insurance pay for a second opinion or treatment?

Many health insurance companies pay for second opinions. Call your health insurance company to make sure. For additional information regarding insurance coverage and your visit, see the Cancer Center's Financial Planning and Counseling website.

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

Seeking a second opinion is a personal choice, 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—such as the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center—or a major teaching facility offers the advantage of specialized physicians, state-of-the-art technology and new investigational therapies that may not be available in community hospitals.

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

Yes. Our specialty physicians will need to see your medical records, pathology slides, X-rays/imaging studies and other tests, and they will also want to evaluate you in person.

Clinical Trials / Research Trials 

Does the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have any clinical trials or research 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. At any given time, we have about 150 clinical trials or research studies in progress. Each trial has specific criteria for participation based on type and state of disease.

In many cases, standard treatment has been found to produce excellent outcomes. When you are evaluated in our cancer clinic, your physician will discuss with you clinical trials that are most appropriate for your diagnosis and condition.

Please visit UMClinicalStudies.org for a list of clinical trials related to cancer.

Risks 

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 physician about reducing your personal risk and a schedule for checkups.

See the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Causes and Risk Factors for more information about cancer risk.