Frequently Asked Questions


What is an oncologist? Does everyone who has cancer need 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 systemic therapy, including chemotherapy, targeted agents and immunotherapy.
  • 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 requiring surgical resection.

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 in a multidisciplinary approach.


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 nonuniversity hospitals nationwide in receiving research funding from the National Institutes of Health. Our doctors and surgeons are experts in their 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.


What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a type of treatment used to treat cancer and other diseases. This type of treatment uses the patient’s immune system — white blood cells and lymph node tissue — to fight the cancer. There are several forms of immunotherapy, and the type that's used depends on the type of cancer being treated.


What is precision medicine?

Precision medicine aims to more effectively treat and prevent diseases. The key to this approach is examining an individual’s genes, lifestyle, environment and other factors. The goal of Cedars-Sinai Precision Health is to match the right treatment to the right patient for the best possible outcomes.


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 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 records 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 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 see more than one specialist, depending on your treatment, but for each type of treatment you receive, you will see 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?

Your risk of getting cancer 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.

Board-certified genetic counselors at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute will assess your risk for a particular disease by reviewing your personal and family history and by ordering genetic tests. They can then outline a plan to help you and your doctors effectively manage your health risks and prevent disease.