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Should I Choose a Cancer Treatment Center?

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Updated August 29, 2012

Question: Should I Choose a Cancer Treatment Center?

I've been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer with metastasis to the liver. I have heard such great things about these centers, but I don't know that much about them.

Answer:

After being diagnosed with colon cancer there are a number of pressing decisions to make. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, take the time to research your options carefully.

Traditionally, treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery for colon cancer were delivered at a hospital. Although that remains a viable option, many people seek the comprehensive care provided by cancer treatment centers. The focus in these centers is holistic, which means that care is given to all of you, not just your cancer.

Treatments are offered in a variety of settings including:

  • Local hospital
  • Outpatient treatment center
  • Doctor's office
  • University affiliated centers
  • Cancer treatment centers

What is a Cancer Treatment Center?

Unlike an outpatient clinic or the hospital, cancer treatment centers provide direct care via an interdisciplinary team of professionals. This team is composed of many different medical and therapeutic professionals who address every facet of your life that cancer touches – from your emotional or physical response to your financial and social concerns. One day you might meet with your oncologist, followed by a visit with a nutrition specialist. On the next, you may have a massage and discover ways to deal with stress in a healthful manner. The plan is made for you specifically, not just your stage and grade of colon cancer.

Services Offered

Rather than obtaining your myriad treatments ala carte – driving all over town and arranging your own treatment plan -- many cancer fighters enjoy the fact that everything is under one roof in these centers. Some of the treatment options offered include:

  • Medical treatments (chemotherapy, radiation)
  • Psychological support (counseling)
  • Emotional and spiritual support (music therapy, chaplain visitation)
  • Palliative care options
  • Holistic pain management
  • Ability to participate in research studies (or reap the benefits of cutting edge research)
  • Nutritional support (teaching you how to eat and maintain weight for wellness)
  • Complementary therapy (herbal therapy, aromatherapy, massage)

Insurance Coverage

Check with your healthcare insurance company before you start a search for treatment centers. They may provide coverage for one, but not another. Likewise, you can talk to the financial specialist in the cancer treatment center that you are considering. These professionals can help you understand the intricacies of coverage and help you locate further financial assistance, should you need it.

Making a Choice

There are more than 1,400 accredited cancer treatment centers in America, according to the American Cancer Society, including facilities such as the:

  • National Cancer Institute Cancer Center
  • Cancer Treatment Centers of America
  • Moffitt Cancer Center
  • Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • University affiliated cancer centers, such as the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center (affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine)
  • Centers affiliated by type of cancer (breast, prostate)
  • Centers specializing in children with cancer (pediatric cancer centers)

Regardless of what center you choose, make sure it is accredited by the Committee on Cancer and also by the American College of Surgeons, according to the American Cancer Society. These centers gain accreditation by voluntarily undergoing rigorous surveys – they are proven to provide quality-driven patient care.

Changing Treatment Centers

You are not held hostage to your treatment center choice. At some point, should you become dissatisfied, you can leave and find a new treatment center. (To avoid this situation, consider taking a tour of the facility and services prior to signing up for the program.) Just be sure to talk to your treatment team and insurance coverage provider first, so you don't get stuck with a bill. Remember, this is your fight – you are ultimately in charge.

Click here if you want to visit the National Cancer Center's Office of Cancer Centers website. It provides a state-by-state listing of centers, and includes the medical director, address and telephone contact information.

Sources:

American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Finding Treatment Centers. Accessed August 27, 2012.

National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Office of Cancer Centers. Shared Resources at NCI. Accessed August 26, 2012.

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