Choosing a Treatment Center
Your choice of a cancer center may depend on several factors, including:
- your diagnosis
- where you live
- your healthcare coverage
Choose an accredited center that has the medical expertise to provide the type of treatment you need. Most U.S. healthcare organizations and programs are evaluated against national performance standards and accredited by The Joint Commission, an independent, nonprofit organization.
Types of Cancer Treatment Centers
Types of treatment centers include:
- National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers
- university-affiliated hospitals or centers
- community cancer centers or local hospitals
NCI Designated Cancer Centers
The NCI coordinates the National Cancer Program, which supports a national network of cancer centers and ensures they meet scientific, organizational and administrative criteria to be recognized by the institute. The NCI evaluates the centers every three to five years. These centers are likely to offer the newest treatment options. The NCI recognizes two types of cancer centers:
- NCI designated comprehensive cancer centers offer the most recent advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment, including participation in cancer clinical trials. These centers also provide community outreach and education programs about cancer. A benefit of choosing one of these centers is access to a unit or associated center that performs stem cell transplantation.
- NCI designated clinical cancer centers offer the most up-to-date advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment. The experienced healthcare professionals at these centers have access to clinical trials and an associated center that performs stem cell transplantation.
University-Affiliated Hospitals or Centers
Hospitals and centers affiliated with a university or medical school are likely to:
- offer up-to-date cancer treatment and care
- have a supportive staff
- have a unit or associated center that performs stem cell transplantation.
University-affiliated hospitals or centers provide training to medical students, and some are NCI designated.
Community Cancer Centers or Local Hospitals
You may decide to receive care at your local hospital or a community cancer center because it's close to home or you already know the healthcare professionals who practice there. If your local treatment center or hematologist oncologist is affiliated with the NCI's Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP), you may be able to receive NCI-sponsored treatments, including access to clinical trials, at the local center.
If no NCI designated centers are near home, you might choose to travel to another city or state. However, traveling may not be an option for you when your local center isn't affiliated with the NCI or a university or medical school. In this case, ask your local cancer specialist if he or she can consult with area university specialists or NCI researchers before or during your treatment.
How to Find a Treatment Center
A number of resources are available to help you find a treatment center. Your primary care physician may be able to provide a referral or you can use doctor and health plan referral services.
The following organizations can also help:
- The Association of Community Cancer Centers, which provides information about more than 670 community cancer centers
- The American College of Surgeons, which features a Commission on Cancer service called Find an Approved Cancer Program Near You
- The Joint Commission, which provides information about more than 15,000 U.S. healthcare organizations and programs
- The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center Programs, which provides a listing of all NCI designated cancer centers across the country
- The National Marrow Donor Program, which offers information on U.S. transplant centers
Questions to Help You Choose a Treatment Center
When you call or visit the treatment center you're considering, use the following questions to help you better able to make a decision:
- Is care at the treatment center covered by my health plan?
- Does my primary care physician or hematology-oncologist have confidence in this treatment center?
- What type of accreditation does the treatment center have? Do the treatment center and staff have experience in treating my specific type of blood cancer?
- Does the center offer the most current treatments available?
- Does the center participate in clinical trials (research studies) for my diagnosis?
- Are adequate support staff (nurses, social workers, case managers, patient advocates) available?
- Will I see the same professional staff members at each visit?
- Is there a pharmacy on the premises or nearby?
- Is this center experienced in performing the type of stem cell transplant I will need?
- Can I speak to other cancer patients who are being treated or were treated at this center?