Find the Best Cancer Treatment Facility

When you're diagnosed with cancer, you want to do everything you can to improve the likelihood you will recover. This includes deciding where to go for treatment and who should treat you.

Cancer physicians
Specialists, such as oncologists, have completed their residency training in specific areas and fulfilled certain requirements. A physician who wishes to specialize even further must complete at least one additional year of full-time education.

In broad terms, physicians treat cancer with a combination of chemotherapy (medications), radiation, and surgery. Medical oncologists are physicians who have completed basic training in medicine and undergone additional training for oncology. Similarly, surgical oncologists are surgeons who take additional training after general surgery, and radiation oncologist are physicians who undergo residency training in that specialty. You'll want to work with a physician who has specialized in the field of oncology.

Finding a facility
There are many resources to help you find the right cancer facility. You can start by asking for a referral from your primary care physician. Your local hospital may also be able to recommend a cancer hospital. Some provide patient referral services as well.

According to the Lung Cancer Alliance, finding a cancer center that offers a multi-disciplinary approach is a must. These centers employ many health professionals, who work in a coordinated fashion to treat patients. Your multi-disciplinary team may include your primary care physician, several types of oncologists, a nutritionist, social worker, and patient navigator, who guides you through the process from diagnosis through treatment.

The Lung Cancer Alliance also suggests you seek out a center that treats many patients with your type of cancer and understands the latest research and guidelines.

A recent study examined whether centralizing cancer surgeries improved patient outcomes, especially for more complex cancers. This study specifically looked at colon and pancreatic cancer surgeries. The researchers found that a higher procedure volume leads to significant reduction in mortality for patients undergoing surgery for pancreatic surgery, but not colon cancer. The Leapfrog Group, a coalition of organizations that provides healthcare benefits, recommends patients seek pancreatic cancer surgery in hospitals that perform at least 11 procedures annually.

When choosing where to receive your cancer treatment, determine if the facility has experience and success treating your type of cancer. Using services such as, you can see how individual physicians and hospitals are rated for quality. Accrediting bodies, such as the Joint Commission, also evaluates and accredits healthcare organizations.



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National Cancer Institute. "How To Find a Doctor or Treatment Facility If You Have Cancer." Web. 29 June 2009.

Lung Cancer Alliance. "Where Do I Find the Best Care?" Web. Web.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America. "Cancer Treatment Statistics & Results." Web.

Van Heek, N. Tjarda, MD, Kuhlmann, Koert F. D., MD, Scholten, Rob J., MD, de Castro, Steve M. M., MD, Busch, Olivier R. C., MD, van Gulik, Thomas M., MD, Obertop, Huug, MD, and Gouma, Dirk J., MD. "Hospital Volume and Mortality After Pancreatic Resection." Annals of Surgery 242 (6) (2005): 781-790. Web.

Rajiv V. Datta, MD, FACS, FRCS, FICS reviewed this article.