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Choosing a Treatment Center

Selecting a cancer treatment center may depend on several factors including your specific diagnosis, location and insurance coverage. You will want to choose an accredited treatment center with the medical expertise to provide the type(s) of treatment you will need.

Most U.S. healthcare organizations and programs in the United States are evaluated for accreditation by The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. Receiving accreditation from The Joint Commission means that an organization complies with The Commission’s standards and strives to improve the care and services it provides. To review The Joint Commission’s performance reports for a participating institution, click on “Quality Check” at the top right corner of The Joint Commission’s webpage.

Types of treatment centers include:

National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is one of eight agencies that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NCI coordinates the National Cancer Program, which conducts and supports research and training and provides a wealth of information. The NCI also supports a national network of cancer centers, each of which must meet scientific, organizational and administrative criteria to be recognized by the institute. There are two types of cancer centers recognized by the NCI: 

  1. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers, which offer the most recent advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment, including clinical trials. The center must demonstrate research in each of three major areas: laboratory, clinical, and population-based research. In addition, a comprehensive center must also demonstrate professional and public education and outreach capabilities, including the distribution of clinical and public health advances in the communities it serves. 
  2. NCI-designated cancer centers, which offer the most recent advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment, including clinical trials. The center must demonstrate scientific leadership, resources, and capabilities in laboratory, clinical, or population science, or some combination of these three components. It must also demonstrate reasonable research in the scientific areas it chooses.

University-affiliated hospitals or centers

University-Affiliated Hospitals or Centers are affiliated with a university or medical school and provide training for medical students. They may be NCI-designated and are likely to offer:

  • Up-to-date cancer treatment and care
  • Have a support staff
  • Have a unit or associated center that performs stem cell transplantation.

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 the local treatment center or hematologist-oncologist is affiliated with the Community Clinical Oncology Program, known as “CCOP” (an NCI-designated program by which local and community oncologists collaborate with NCI researchers), you may be able to receive NCI-sponsored treatments, including access to clinical trials, at the local center. 

If the local center is not affiliated with the NCI and/or a university or medical school, it is important to ask your local cancer specialist if he or she will be able to consult with area university specialists or NCI researchers before and during the course of treatment.

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