1. Find the Right Specialty
General surgeons have extensive training in a wide variety of surgical areas and can choose to specialize in different areas, such as surgical oncology and bariatric surgery. Particularly with weight loss surgery and breast cancer surgery, there are many different treatment options and approaches. You want a surgeon who spends a significant amount of time focused on your area of need.
Additionally, surgeons can specialize in different minimally-invasive surgical techniques, such as laparoscopic, robotic, and endoscopic. These techniques may cause less pain, less scarring, and reduce recovery times. Selecting a surgeon that offers these techniques allows you and your surgeon to discuss together to decide what is best for you.
2. Ask for Recommendations
Your regular physician is by far the best resource for choosing a surgeon. Not only do they know which surgeons are good at certain procedures, but they also know which ones have a good bedside manner. Ask your primary care physician or specialist to recommend the surgeon they would choose for their own family member.
Other patients can also be very helpful in selecting the right surgeon, especially for elective procedures. You can find people that have had the same procedure in online support communities. You can also find physician reviews online, but take them as just one source of information. Ask people about their experiences with surgeons to determine if they could be a good fit for you.
2.1 Online Communities
- Did the surgeon listen to them?
- Did the surgeon make them feel comfortable?
- Did they feel like the surgeon fully explained the risks and benefits of the different treatment options?
- Did the surgeon offer non-surgical treatment options?
3. Check Their Credentials
3.1 Board Certification
You deserve a surgeon that is board certified by the American Board of Surgery. Look this up online at CertificationMatters.org.
3.2 Fellow Status
Look for “FACS” after the surgeon’s name. This indicates they are a Fellow of American College of Surgeons, meaning that the surgeon’s education and training, professional qualifications, surgical competence, and ethical conduct have passed a rigorous evaluation and meet high standards. You can check Fellow status at FACS.org.
3.3 Professional Organizations
The organizations below can be very good online resources for finding a qualified surgeon and checking out a surgeon’s credentials.
- American Society of Breast Surgeons – Find a Member
- American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery – Find a Provider
- Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeon – Find a SAGES Surgeon
- Society of Surgical Oncology – Find a Doctor
- Clinical Robotics Surgery Association – Find Robotic Surgeons
4. ASK QUESTIONS
If the surgeon doesn’t want to answer them, they aren’t the surgeon for you. They should take their time and you shouldn’t be rushed. You have the right to be informed, which requires good communication between you and your surgeon. Good questions to ask:
- What are my treatment options? And, which do you recommend?
- How many times have you performed this procedure?
- Do you use minimally invasive techniques?
- What are the potential complications?
- What is the recovery?
No matter how common the procedure, surgery is a big decision. Use these 4 steps to find a surgeon that is right for you. You deserve it.