Becoming a Patient

Becoming a Patient

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis can be many things: frightening, stressful, surprising, confusing, and the list goes on. One thing it usually isn’t? Easy.

Consider this guide your one-stop checklist for becoming our patient. We’re here to help you make sense of your options and be sure you get the care you need.

Here’s how to get started.

To make an appointment, call us at 800-525-2225. You can also request an appointment online.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, you can contact Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Physician Referral Service to make an appointment.

You don’t need any inside knowledge or personal ties to reach out to us. While we are a world-renowned cancer hospital, anyone can call us. You don’t need an “in” to be treated here.

You also don’t have to have a rare cancer. It’s true that we’re world leaders in treating many of the most complex, challenging types of the disease. But our compassionate, comprehensive approach to care can make a big difference to people with the most common forms of cancer, too, including breast, lung, and prostate cancers. Oftentimes, our experts are able to offer treatment options that are more effective or that can improve your quality of life.

Finally, you don’t need a referral to make an appointment with one of our specialists. The representatives who staff our appointment lines are knowledgeable, well trained, and sensitive, and they can answer many of your questions.

You will need to answer a few questions about your cancer status, past treatment history, and other things that will help us match you with the right doctor for your needs.

And if you’re interested in participating in a clinical trial or seeing one of our experts in Long Island, New Jersey, and Westchester County, just let us know. While some treatments can only be given at our main locations on the Upper East Side, more and more patients are receiving the vast majority of their care that’s closer to home. (Our surgeons offer consultations outside Manhattan, too.) What’s more, the care you receive at all of our locations is held to the same high standards — provided by the same doctors, just in a location that’s more convenient for you.

Make sure your insurance plan provides coverage at MSK. Coverage does vary depending on the individual plan, but most major insurance providers do include MSK in their networks. Medicaid and New York State Medicare also provide benefits for care here.

If you have any questions, we recommend that you speak with your insurance company or call us at 646-497-9176.

Before you come for your first visit, a representative from our Patient Financial Services (PFS) department will contact you to explain your benefits and review any pre-authorization requirements. (This means that your insurance plan agrees that your care is medically necessary.) Once you’re in our care, pre-authorization is required for many of the services you might receive; our PFS staff will work with you to make sure that happens. 

If you don’t have health insurance or you’re worried that your insurance may not cover your entire bill, we may be able to help.

Take a look at our questions to ask your insurance company and see a list of health insurers who provide coverage at MSK.

The representative who schedules your appointment will give you information about the medical records and other details we’ll need to have before your first appointment.

You’ll also find out the exact location of your first appointment. If you’re driving into Manhattan, be sure to have your driving directions ready ahead of time and review the parking options that offer discounts to our patients and caregivers.

If you’ll be coming to see us from somewhere outside the tristate area, take a look at the special rates and services we’ve arranged with area hotels for MSK patients, family members, and caregivers. We also keep a list of several resources that can help you with air travel.

Knowledge can be a powerful tool — and a comfort. Each person is different, but many people find that knowing more about the cancer type they’ve been diagnosed with makes them feel more comfortable with their treatment options and more empowered to make decisions confidently.

We also recommend that you bring a list of questions to ask your doctor at your first appointment. If you can, have a family member or friend come with you to participate in the discussion, take notes, or just listen and provide support.

Beginning at your first visit, you’ll meet the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who will work together to care for you. Every member of this team of experts — chosen just for you, to meet your specific needs — specializes in diagnosing and treating your particular type of cancer. Having them work together gives you the benefit of their skills and experience in different areas. This approach helps us make sure that you receive the best possible treatment, designed for you.

A note about nurses: Nurses play an important role in caring for patients at MSK and are often the members of your treatment team that you’ll see the most. They bring extraordinary compassion, knowledge, and expertise to your care, and will help you through every step of your experience.

Our online portal for patients, called MyMSK, can take some of the stress out of cancer treatment. It allows you to send secure messages right to your doctor’s office, manage your appointments, keep track of your medications, view your lab results, make changes to your personal information, and manage your bills. Best of all? You can access all of this from your home computer or smartphone.

If you have questions after an appointment or a treatment, don’t hesitate to contact a member of your healthcare team. We’re here to help, every step of the way.

It’s important to everyone at MSK that we care for your total health in addition to treating your cancer. We offer support groups, financial assistance, wellness programs, and a number of other services to support you in every way we can.

Our patient activities can help keep you active and relieve your stress. You can participate in art therapy, sign up for a visit from our beloved Caring Canines therapy dogs, or express yourself through our popular writing program, which pairs patients with experienced writing mentors. 

We also offer resources especially for caregivers, including online support groups and in-person counseling sessions.