Finding the Right Doctor for Melanoma Treatment

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Although melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, experts have discovered excellent new treatments over the past decade. You have many treatment options. 

If you have melanoma, you’ll need to find a highly qualified dermatologist to openly discuss your options and provide your treatment. You may need treatment from additional doctors in addition to your dermatologist, such as an oncologist or surgical oncologist, depending on the stage of your cancer. How do you find the best team of doctors to treat your melanoma? Here are important factors to keep in mind. 

Top Things to Look For

Find a doctor who:

  • Is board certified in dermatology. If you require chemotherapy or radiation, make sure the doctor has certification in medical oncology or radiation oncology.

  • Has experience treating patients with melanoma

  • Practices at a hospital known to have high-quality patient outcomes.

  • Accepts your insurance

  • You are comfortable talking with and who fully answers your questions

Use these five steps to find the best dermatologist for melanoma treatment.

1. Ask Around

Start by creating a list of potential dermatologists. Ask your family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. If you’re starting out without any referrals, or you’re looking for more options, search for dermatologists on Healthgrades.com

Healthgrades.com shows patient satisfaction ratings, which give you insight into how your own experience might be with the doctor. Patients rate the doctor and the doctor’s medical practice, and say if they would recommend the doctor to family and friends.

2. Research Credentials and Experience

Take time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience. Look for a doctor who is board certified in dermatology and has experience treating melanoma. Since surgical removal is a common treatment option for early-stage melanoma,   choose a doctor who performs surgical excision or Mohs microsurgery on a regular basis. The more experience a doctor has in treating melanoma, the better prepared he or she is to anticipate and prevent surgical complications. 

Also, confirm that the doctor is in good standing with state and federal agencies and has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You’ll find all this information on Healthgrades.com.

3. Examine Hospital Performance

If you have an advanced stage of melanoma, you may require treatment at a hospital. For this reason, you should also consider the overall quality of care at the hospital where your dermatologist or surgeon practices. 

Find out where the dermatologists or surgeons on your list can treat patients; then research those hospitals on Healthgrades.com. Healthgrades evaluates hospitals on mortality and complication rates of patients while in the hospital for a range of common procedures. 

Ideally you should find a hospital in your area that performs better than expected (5 stars) in clinical quality and patient care and then find a doctor who can admit and treat patients at this hospital. Avoid hospitals with lower than expected (1 star) results.

If a particular hospital falls short in quality, determine if the doctor also treats patients a different facility. Otherwise, find a doctor who treats patients at a hospital likely to offer you the best possible outcome.

4. Interview the Dermatologist

As you narrow down your list of dermatologists, call each doctor’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor. 

  • Ask yourself if you are comfortable talking with the doctor. 
  • Does he or she respect your opinions and answer your questions in a way you understand? 

Here are some questions to ask the doctor:

  • Do you typically treat patients like me?

  • How many melanoma surgeries have you performed?

  • What results do you usually see?

  • How frequently do you encounter complications from the procedure?

  • What do you do to avoid complications or correct them if they occur?

  • If I need additional treatment, such as advanced surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation, which doctors do you recommend I see?

5. Determine Your Insurance Benefit 

Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your melanoma treatment, you need to choose doctors that participate in your plan. 

But keep in mind, just because a doctor participates in your insurance plan doesn’t mean he or she is a high-quality doctor. You still need to consider the doctor’s experience and expertise.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Feb 19
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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  2. Melanoma: Diagnosis, Treatment and Outcome. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/m---p/melanoma/diagnosis-treatment.

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  4. Path to getting a Diagnosis. AIM at Melanoma Foundation. http://www.aimatmelanoma.org/en/aim-for-answers/path-to-getting-a-diagnosis.html.