ATC Physician Selection

Selecting Physicians for ATC Treatment
General Comments
Points To Consider
Physician Lists


Selecting Physicians for ATC Treatments

ATC patients need prompt treatment based on current knowledge about ATC. This section gives general comments about physician selection, together with some specific points to consider, plus lists of sources for finding physicians.

General Comments

Treating ATC usually involves a team of physicians, with one physician as the team leader. The ATC treatment team may include an endocrinologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist (for external beam radiation), and medical oncologist (for chemotherapy).

It is important that physicians treating ATC are willing to quickly consult other physicians with known experience in dealing with ATC, in order to develop rapid and useful treatment plans.

Patients and caregivers need physicians who know with whom to consult for their expertise in ATC, and who know how to stay ahead of the disease course.

It’s also important that the physician be willing to answer, with honesty and compassion, patients’ and caregivers’ questions about their experience with ATC. The physician team should not remove the patient’s hope.

Ideally, there would be a great statistical database resource of doctors who have treated ATC. But, we have not found such a resource. And, it isn't clear what the measure of success should be.

We don't believe that patient length of life is the only measure of success for ATC treatment. Quality of life in treatment is also important.

Three ATC survivors in ThyCa’s Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer E-Mail Support Group have generously contributed their doctor lists. In a section below, we include links to this list and other lists. However, we suggest that patients and caregivers use physician lists with caution.

Research papers are not a useful resource for many people who are seeking physicians. Research papers are difficult for many to access. In addition, they can be difficult to understand, because they are written for professionals with extensive medical training. Also, there are terrific doctors who are not published.

We must remember how alone the newly ATC diagnosed patients feel. We believe that it is important to have resource lists that include research physicians who have authored the literature, but are broader. That way, the people thrust into this disease have a starting point. We all know that there isn't time to pick up the yellow pages and make a lot of telephone calls to find a physician capable of dealing with ATC.

Points To Consider

  • Patients and caregivers need to know which physicians are knowledgeable and experienced in treating ATC, as a starting point for those newly diagnosed. Time urgency is so critical in ATC treatment that families need to reach those with expertise as quickly as possible.
  • The list should include both clinical physicians (those who see patients) and ATC researchers (those with whom clinical physicians may consult).
  • Some physicians involved with ATC care are both clinicians and researchers. Others have colleagues in the same centers who are involved in research. Physicians learn from each other through their medical journals, meetings, consultations regarding particular patients, and informal communications.
  • There are terrific clinicians who are not published authors.
  • A doctor who has treated someone who has survived ATC might be a good candidate for treating someone newly diagnosed, but past outcomes do not guarantee future outcomes. Each patient is an individual. Additionally, ATC presents differently for each patient.
  • A doctor who has seen many ATC patients might be a better candidate than one who has seen few ATC patients.
  • A doctor who has never seen ATC is probably a poor candidate for treating those newly diagnosed. Part of the reason is that ATC requires a quick and accurate diagnosis. In our experience, this isn’t often the case with an inexperienced ATC physician.
  • A doctor treating ATC must be open to reviewing the latest research literature and discussing treatment options with both ATC researchers and experienced ATC clinicians.
  • Patient length of life is only one of the important outcome indicators for ATC treatment. The quality of life is another important factor.
  • There is no current rating or experience tracking system or database in place to help a patient choose a doctor to help treat ATC.

Physician Lists

Here are four lists.

  1. ThyCa’s Medical Advisory Council Members, and their colleagues in their centers and other centers.
    ThyCa receives input from all our medical advisors, as well as from many additional specialists. For some ATC patients an endocrinologist may the specialist who manages overall ATC treatment, making referrals to other specialists as needed. For other ATC patients, a medical oncologist may manage the care. The endocrinologists on this list and other lists can refer you to medical oncologists.
  2. Speakers at past ThyCa Conferences and Workshops.
    Our conferences are held in different areas of the USA each year. ThyCa rotates speakers to introduce survivors and caregivers to a broad array of experts on thyroid cancer. Each year, from 20 to 30 leading physicians participate in the ThyCa conference. Speakers include endocrinologists, medical oncologists, surgeons, and other specialists.
  3. Specialists on Professionals’ Lists.
    ThyCa’s web site has a page titled Find a Thyroid Specialist. It has links to four leading medical organizations that have geographic lists of thyroid and thyroid cancer specialists on their web sites. Ask any physician you contact about their experience with ATC.
  4. Physicians of ATC Survivors in ThyCa’s ATC E-Mail Support Group.
    To receive messages from this free group, follow the instructions for joining, on this page. http://www.thyca.org/atc/support/atcgroup/
    Three of the long-term ATC survivors in this group send a monthly e-mail message with the names of physicians who treated them. Other group members who are long-term ATC survivors or caregivers of long-term ATC survivors also take part in this group. These participants invite patients and caregivers to contact them through the ATC E-mail Support Group list if they have any questions or just need to talk. As Trish, one of the long-term ATC survivors, says, “We feel blessed that we are here today and want to help others out there who have this terrible sickness.”

Last updated: March 23, 2006