• Preparing for Your First Appointment

    How to Prepare

    Before you arrive for your first visit, you will have a letter and/or packet of information from your new patient coordinator, explaining where to go and what to bring. Please read this information carefully.

    In addition, here are some general tips to help your first appointment go smoothly.

    Before your appointment

    Obtain approval from your insurance company. If your visit will be paid for by health insurance, you may need approval ahead of time. Please contact your insurance company to make sure any necessary documents are in place. If you do not have insurance or have questions, please call our financial counselors at 617-632-3455.

    Gather any necessary items. Many patients are surprised by the amount of preparation needed for the first appointment. Cancer is a complex illness, and every case is different; it's important for us to have as much information about your case as possible.

    In some cases, you will be asked to bring pathology slides, medical records, or radiology films to your first appointment. In other cases, you will be asked to send them in advance.

    Fill out paperwork ahead of time. You may have received several documents to fill out, such as a medication list, patient history form, or questionnaire about your illness. Be sure to complete them and bring them with you.

    Know where you’re going. Review maps and directions so you will feel confident about your journey, especially if your destination is unfamiliar. You can find information about places to eat, places to stay, driving directions and parking details in our Planning a Visit section.

    Think about the questions you want to ask. Some people want to know everything about their diagnosis, while others just want to know the basic facts. Read tips for talking with your doctor about your treatment.

    On the day of your first appointment

    What to bring

    Please make sure you have with you the items listed in your packet, which may include radiology films, your patient health history form, and insurance cards. You might also like to bring along a book, magazine, or laptop to help pass the time while waiting. Dana-Farber has wireless internet access, and patients may also borrow an iPad for several hours.

    Arriving for your appointment

    If your appointment is at the Longwood campus, come to Dana-Farber's main entrance at 450 Brookline Avenue. Please use the Dana-Farber on-site parking garage, under Dana-Farber's Yawkey Center for Cancer Care. You can enter the garage from Jimmy Fund Way. Once you are inside the Yawkey Center, please proceed to Central Registration on the second floor. At the satellite centers, please check in at the registration desk.

    No matter where you are being seen, please plan to check in at least 30 minutes before your appointment time.

    You will receive a privacy notice, a patient identification card, and a handbook outlining all the services available to you as a patient. You will also be asked to sign several forms.

    How long will the visit take

    You should plan to spend two to three hours for your first visit.

    If you have general questions about Dana-Farber resources at the Longwood campus, such as how to find a support group or where to get a cup of coffee, drop by the Concierge desk located in the lobby of the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care at 450 Brookline Avenue.

    During your visit, you or a family member might like to visit the chapel, cafeteria, or resource centers.

    What your visit includes

    On your first day, you will meet with the health care professionals involved in your care, who will review your medical records and health history and give you a physical examination. They will answer any questions and discuss treatment options, including the possibility of participating in clinical studies of innovative new treatments.

    Your first appointment will be tailored to your specific medical needs, and you may be scheduled to see more than one physician.

    Our specialists work as a team to evaluate and treat patients with all types of cancers and related diseases. Our goal is to provide an expert evaluation and the most advanced care possible.

    Specialists may include:

    • Medical oncologists, who specialize in administering anti-cancer drugs (chemotherapy)
    • Surgical oncologists, who perform various surgical procedures.
    • Radiation oncologists, who use radiation to destroy cancer cells.
    • Other specialists such as pathologists, radiologists, nurses, nutritionists, and social workers.

    Learn more about the roles of members of your care team 

    Getting the most out of your visit

    Here are some tips to guide your visits:

    • Communicate with your health care team. Your doctors and nurses know a lot about your disease, but you know a lot about your own body. Share your fears and concerns, and feel free to ask questions or have something explained again.
    • Consider bringing along a family member or friend. Having support may help you make better choices when you meet with your doctor or nurse.
    • Listen carefully. Take notes when your doctor or nurse explains something, or ask your companion to do so. You might want to bring along a notebook and pen, voice recorder, laptop computer, or portable electronic device to help keep track of key information. If you'd like to record the session, you will need verbal permission from your clinician and anyone else participating in the conversation.
    • Jot down the names of your health care team and office staff.
    • Bring your ID cards. Keep your insurance card and blue hospital cards with you at all times.
    • Know what drugs you take. Make a list of all medications you take and any allergies you have. Update this list often and carry it with you to share with your health care team.
    • Try to be on time for appointments. Plan enough time for traffic delays (especially during the Red Sox season) and parking. Checking in at least 30 minutes before your first appointment and 15 minutes before subsequent appointments can help ensure that you and other patients are seen promptly throughout the day.
    Going home

    Once your appointment has ended, take a moment to recognize that this first step is over. Your next visit will feel much easier, because you’ll know your way, your care team will be familiar, and you’ll have a plan for moving forward.

    On the Longwood and Faulkner campuses, your map and directions brochure provides directions from Dana-Farber to major highways. If you do not have this document or access to online directions and maps, please ask at the Concierge desk in the Yawkey Center, or at the reception desks at the satellite centers.

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