Choosing a Cancer Treatment Center

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2019

Cancer requires specialized treatment. And it is important to find a center that offers the treatment you need.

How to find a treatment center

Some people first find an oncologist, a doctor who treats cancer. Then, they base the decision on where that doctor works.

Other people first find a center that treats their type of cancer. After this, they find a doctor who works there.

The treatment center staff will become part of your cancer care team. This team may include nurses, physician assistants, social workers, and technicians.

The type of health insurance you have will also affect your decision. You may need to choose from centers covered by your insurance. Ask your insurance company for a list of approved centers.

If you have multiple options, ask your doctor for a recommendation. You may also benefit from talking with other people with cancer. Learn from their experiences with specific treatment centers.

Deciding on a treatment center

Consider these issues before choosing a cancer treatment center:

  • How much experience does the center have treating your type of cancer? How effective has it been with those treatments?

  • How close is it to your home or office?

  • What support services does it offer? Will you have access to social workers, dietitians, and other care providers?

  • Does the center offer clinical trials?

If the center is far from home, ask these questions:

  • Does it offer a place for you and your family to stay?

  • Is it close to airports, hotels, and restaurants?

Accredited cancer treatment centers

A good place to start your search is through accredited cancer treatment centers. The National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Cancer Center Program has more than 60 centers. All centers meet specific standards and fall into 2 categories:

Cancer centers. Cancer centers carry out laboratory, clinical, and population-based research. Most cancer centers provide care for people with cancer, but some only conduct laboratory research.

Comprehensive cancer centers. Comprehensive cancer centers do the same activities as cancer centers. In addition, they have community outreach and educational programs.

NCI also offers the National Clinical Trials Network, once known as cooperative groups. These large networks of researchers, doctors, and other health care professionals do clinical trials across the country. Review and search a complete list of NCI-designated cancer centers.

The following national organizations also accredit treatment centers:

The American College of Surgeons (ACS). Through its Commission on Cancer (CoC), ACS has accredited more than 1,500 cancer programs. CoC treatment centers offer many services, including diagnostics, treatment, rehabilitation, and support services. Learn more about CoC cancer programs.

The Joint Commission. This group evaluates general health care programs. It offers performance reports for thousands of its accredited programs and organizations. You can review the Joint Commission’s performance report for specific treatment centers.

How you receive care

Once you choose a treatment center, it is important to find out if you will receive your medical care in an inpatient or an outpatient setting. For inpatient care, you stay in the hospital and are closely watched during treatment and recovery. Outpatient treatment does not require a hospital stay. It can take place at a hospital building, clinic, or doctor’s office. Talk with your health care team to learn about the types of settings where you may receive treatment.

Related Resources

When the Doctor Says “Cancer"

Making Decisions About Cancer Treatment

Taking Charge of Your Care

More Information

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

NCI: How to Find a Doctor or Treatment Facility If You Have Cancer