FAQ about the Cancer Institute

The following are frequently asked questions about cancer and the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai.


What is an oncologist? Does everyone who has cancer need to have an oncologist?

Oncologists are physicians who specialize in cancer and tumors. The three types of oncologists are:

  • Medical oncologists, who are internists with special training in treating cancer. They tend to treat patients using chemotherapy.
  • Radiation oncologists, who are specialists in the use of radiation treatments for cancer.
  • Surgical oncologists, who are surgeons specially trained to treat patients with cancer.

Most patients with cancer will be seen or treated by at least one of these types of oncologists at some time in their treatment. Some patients may be seen and treated by all three types.

What is a hematologist?

Hematologists are internists who have special training in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs, such as bone marrow. They treat blood-related types of cancer, such as leukemia and lymphoma.

What does the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai offer that other medical centers and hospitals do not?

The Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute offers one comprehensive location for patients with cancer to receive the full array of services and care. Patients at the institute also have access to an incredibly wide range of specialists in various types of cancer and treatments. Because the institute's experts operate as a multidisciplinary team, each patient is ensured that every medical option will be considered in the diagnosis and treatment they receive. Moreover, Cedars-Sinai ranks among the top 10 non-university hospitals nationwide, receiving research funding from the National Institutes of Health. Our doctors and surgeons are experts in their respective fields. Many are "doctor's doctors," providing teaching and expertise for other doctors across the country and around the world. Our nurses are dedicated to excellence and have received the prestigious national Magnet® designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

I have just learned that I have cancer. I would like a second opinion and, if the cancer is confirmed, to be treated at Cedars-Sinai. How do I arrange that?

You should call 1-800-Cedars-1 (1-800-233-2771) for a referral to a specialist and/or Specialty Center appropriate for the type of cancer you have. When you come for your appointment, please bring all X-rays, reports of lab tests, diagnostic studies and any other record regarding your condition. These records will enable us to give you the most comprehensive opinion possible.

If I seek treatment at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, does this mean that I stop seeing my primary care physician?

No. We will keep your primary care physician informed of all of your treatment as it progresses. At the end of the course of treatment, we will refer you back to your physician. Continued follow-up at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute may or may not be necessary, depending on your condition.

If I seek treatment at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, will I be seeing a different doctor every time I come in?

You may be seeing more than one specialist, depending on your treatment, but for each type of treatment you receive, you will be seeing the same physician for the appropriate amount of time. For example, you may need to see a surgical oncologist and a radiation oncologist, but while you are being treated at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, you will always see the same surgical oncologist and the same radiation oncologist until your course of treatment is done.

A number of people in my family have had cancer. Does that mean I am at risk of getting cancer?

That depends on the type of cancer and the relationship of the family member to you. For example, some types of breast cancer are known to be connected to certain genetic mutations. If persons in your family who have breast cancer include a mother, father, sibling or child, genetic factors may be more significant than if the family members who had cancer were distant cousins or nieces or nephews.

How close are we to finding a cure for cancer, and what are some of the most promising advancements?

In the last 20 to 30 years, we have made vast strides in the treatment of certain types of cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and testicular cancer. Other types of cancer continue to be a challenge. We are hopeful that new technology (such as gene therapy), findings from the Human Genome Project and new forms of chemotherapy will help in the battle to find a cure for cancer.

Is cancer one disease that effects different parts of the body, or is it many different diseases that behave in a similar manner?

Cancer comprises many different diseases that effect different parts of the body. For example, cancer of the brain behaves differently from cancer of the lung or any other organ, and cancer of the breast in one person can have a very different outcome compared to cancer of the breast in someone else. To accommodate these differences, the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute treats patients as individuals, personalizing treatment to each patient's specific needs. We have many expert physicians, who work together with the patient and with one another to provide state-of-the-art healthcare for patients with cancer.