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Posted on in Cancer

7 Things To Look For When Choosing a Cancer Treatment Center

Actor Robert DeNiro continues to star in movies following a 2003 battle with prostate cancer.  “The Talk” co-host Sharon Osbourne (Ozzie’s wife) underwent chemotherapy and surgery in 2002 for colon cancer. Singer Melissa Etheridge continues to record and perform after her 2004 battle with breast cancer. These celebrities are an example of the new world of cancer patients -- a world we know as SURVIVORS.  You can be one, too….with the right care and treatment.

“Of the many questions you face after a cancer diagnosis, one is the most important: How does an average cancer patient, like me, find the right place to go for treatment?,” observes McLeod Oncologist Dr. Michael Pavy. “If I faced cancer, here are 7 items I’d look at when considering places to seek cancer therapy and treatment.”

1. Credentials. Several organizations make it their mission to review hospitals and cancer centers offering treatment.  It is important that you look for treatment at a center that has:

  • Accreditation by the Commission on Cancer
  • Accreditation by the American College of Surgeons
  • Accreditation by the American College of Radiology
  • National Accreditation Program for Breast Cancer

2. National Quality Ratings.  Government and private organizations use Medicare data to compute quality ratings for a range of treatments, including cancer.

  • HealthGrades.com This private company uses Medicare information to calculate ratings, such as 5-Star. Ideally, you want a cancer center with a “5-Star” HealthGrades rating.
  • Medicare.gov (Hospital Compare) Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (or HCAPS) is a national survey that asks patients about their experience.  You can check various hospitals and cancer centers at this web site.

3. Technology. New developments in radiation therapy are enabling specialists to provide higher doses of radiation in a more focused manner.  Advantages from this technology include less damage to tissue near the tumor and fewer treatments for the patient.  Some of the newer technologies to look for are the Stereotactic Radiotherapy System (SRS), which uses a 3D image to shape the beam precisely to the tumor. SRS is most commonly used for brain or lung tumors.

4. Experience Leads to Expertise.  Ask how many types of your specific cancer the treatment center has handled in the last year.  In medicine, a generally accepted principle states that the more a type of treatment is delivered by a treatment center, the better the patient results. 

5. Specialists and Treatment Conveniently Located.  Cancer and the resulting treatment can lead to fatigue and exhaustion.  You want a treatment center where all the elements of your treatment -- such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, consulting specialists, and the pharmacy that mixes specially needed medications -- are all located close to each other.  You don’t want to be required to walk or drive all over an expansive campus to find what you need.

6. Availability of Clinical Trials.  For patients who don’t respond to traditional treatments, a medical center that participates in clinical trials has certain benefits.  These centers offer options that are currently being studied by the National Cancer Institute but may not be available in all treatment centers.

7. Close to Home.   The closest cancer treatment center is not always the one you should choose.  On the other hand, cancer treatment requires one or more visits a week. So you don’t want to select a facility that requires a full-day travel by you and a companion to get there.

To find a physician, click here.

Sources include: McLeod Health, American Cancer Society, curetoday.com, Medicare.gov (Hospital Compare), Cancer.net

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services at McLeod Health. It should not be used for diagnosis or as a substitute for health care by your physician.
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