How to find a specialist

There are many different types of cancers that act in different ways and are treated individually. Therefore it is important that you find a specialist doctor that treats and specialises in your diagnosis.

Choosing your hospital

There are a range of facilities in Australia that offer treatment of pancreatic, liver, biliary, oesophageal and stomach cancers.

Some centres have more experience in one area of treatment such as surgery or oncology, whereas others may have more experience in the treatment of particular types of cancer.

It may be tempting to be treated in a hospital close to your home or relatives as a matter of convenience, however you should keep in mind that pancreas, liver, biliary, oesophageal or stomach cancers are not common and require specialist treatment.

There is clear evidence to suggest that management of such cancers are best performed in high volume hospitals where treatment and surgeries are more common. If you live in a small town, you may need to travel to a larger city to find a hospital with sufficient experience in these types of cancers.  This appears to be particularly important for the treatment of pancreatic and oesophageal cancers.  Larger institutions will have more experience in treating less common cancers. This information may be the key to getting the best possible treatment and be well worth any extra travel or inconvenience to you in the short-term

Choosing your doctor

Finding the right health care team to treat your cancer isn’t always easy. Choosing the right doctor can take time. Many people are tempted to rush and choose a doctor that offers treatment as soon as possible. Spend time in selecting the correct doctor as it is likely that your relationship with this person will last through treatment and into long-term follow-up care.

Locating a specialist

Specialists with a primary medical interest in cancer are called oncologists. They are broadly trained in all aspects of oncology, specialising in one of three main disciplines:

  • Surgical Oncology – Cancer surgery.  Liver, pancreas and biliary surgeons are called hepatico-pancticoc-biliary surgeons (HPB). Those specialising in foregut (oesophageal and gastric surgery) are called upper gastrointestinal surgeons.
  • Radiation Oncology – radiation therapy
  • Medical Oncology – chemotherapy/ hormone therapy

The following websites allow to research appropriate doctors. Remember not all specialists are listed on these sites.

Hepatobiliary Pancreatic Surgeons:

Australian and New Zealand Hepatic, Pancreatic and Biliary Association (ANZHPBA)

Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeons:

The Australian and New Zealand Gastric and Oesophageal Surgery Association (ANZGOSA)

Medical Oncologists:

Medical Oncology Group of Australia

Radiation Oncologists:

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists

Some hospitals and communities also have physician referral services available by phone or online. This allows you to learn more about the doctors in your vicinity, such as their areas of expertise, medical certifications, office locations, languages spoken, and so on. You can find these referral services through most hospitals by calling their main number or visiting the hospital web site.

Your first appointment

After you have created a list of potential doctors, schedule in appointments to meet with them and ask appropriate questions.

The most important question to ask them is how much practice they have had with these types of cancers which will determine their level of skill. It is important to find a doctor that has had experience in your particular diagnosis with a minimum of 10 – 15 cases per year.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a specialist. Consider the following questions when choosing your doctor;

  • Does the doctor work at the hospital or treatment facility I have chosen?
  • Does the doctor listen to my needs and treat me with respect?
  • Does the doctor explain things clearly and allow me to ask further questions?
  • If for some reason my doctor was unavailable, who will cover for them and does this doctor have access to my medical records?
  • Does the doctor have the education and training that I require?

It’s helpful to ask around about a doctor’s reputation, but in the end, trust your intuition. You should feel comfortable not only with your doctor’s ability to treat your cancer but also with how he or she treats you as a person. A relationship does take time to develop and you may need more than one visit before you and your doctor really get to know each other. Remember, if it doesn’t feel right, keep looking.


This information is provided to assist the public in accessing specialists and sub-specialists. The Pancare Foundation is not responsible for patient’s decisions when choosing a specialist or sub-specialist. The Pancare Foundation does not in any way endorse any individual.