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What to Look for in a Cancer Center

The best place to receive care for cancer is at a comprehensive cancer center. What does that mean? It’s where highly skilled physicians, who have years of experience in their fields, work with their peers to provide the most advanced treatment possible to cure your disease.

Why is this important? Because you want the best treatments available and the best chance for a cure. Think about how you shop for something that has value to you, like your home or car. Most often you won’t just buy what is convenient or comes in the right color. You look at the features and make your choice based on many factors. Your health care requires this same thought process, especially when it comes to cancer treatment.

Experience Matters

Like most people, physicians who perform a lot of the same procedures or specialize in treating a specific disease are going to be far more skilled in their jobs than someone who treats several diseases or performs a variety of general treatment procedures. Studies have shown this to be true, especially when it comes to cancer treatment outcomes.

When you go to a comprehensive cancer center, you will likely be treated by more than one physician; each physician will specialize in a specific treatment and, many times, in a specific disease. You may hear the terms “multidisciplinary” or “team.” At a comprehensive cancer center this means you will see a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a surgical oncologist and, in some cases, a pathologist. These doctors are all specialists. They will all work with you, and they may meet with you in a conference together to talk with you about your disease and answer your questions. Their collective goal is to devise the best treatment plan for your specific cancer.

One of the best things about comprehensive cancer centers is that they attract the smartest physicians in the world to work for them. Most often, these centers are connected to an academic medical center—which means a university or a medical school. That’s where breakthroughs in medicine happen.

Finding a Comprehensive Cancer Center

How do you find a comprehensive cancer center? Start with the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Click on their link for NCI Designated Cancer Centers, and search by state or alphabetically. To be part of the NCI list, a cancer center must complete a rigorous review process that focuses on the center or institution’s research efforts. Some centers have a broad range of research programs and are called “comprehensive cancer centers,” while those with focused programs are called “clinical cancer centers.”

The NCI isn’t the only place you can find comprehensive cancer centers. A number of regulatory agencies evaluate and designate leading treatment centers. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is a nonprofit organization that works with 24 approved medical-specialty boards and has developed standards for ongoing evaluations and certifications of physicians in the United States. The ABMS is recognized as the “gold standard” in physician certification. They believe that higher standards for physicians means better care for patients.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network a nonprofit group of 21 of the world’s leading cancer centers that have a common goal to improve the quality and effectiveness of cancer care provided to patients through leadership and expertise. They promote the importance of continuous quality improvements and clinical practice guidelines for patients, clinicians and others involved in making healthcare decisions.

Why Choose SCCA?

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) provides all of these things and more. Our doctors are from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine and Seattle Children’s. SCCA is a world-class treatment center that provides advanced therapies and clinical studies based on years of experience caring for people with cancer.

We believe SCCA is the best place for you or a loved one to receive cancer treatment, but we understand that it is a tough decision to choose a cancer center during this stressful time. We sincerely hope that this article will help you find the place that is best for you.

Read more about why to choose SCCA.