Choosing a Cancer Treatment Facility

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2017

Listen to the Cancer.Net Podcast: Choosing a Cancer Treatment Facility, adapted from this content.

Cancer requires specialized treatment, so it is important to find a treatment center that can meet your specific needs.

How to find a treatment facility

Some people first find an oncologist, which is a doctor who treats cancer. They may then choose a treatment center based on where that doctor works. Other people first find a center that treats the type of cancer they have. After this, they find a doctor who works there. The staff at the treatment facility you choose will become part of your cancer care team. This team may include nurses, physician assistants, social workers, and technicians. Learn more about choosing a doctor.

Insurance may also affect your decision. You may be able to choose only the centers covered by your insurance program. Your insurance company can give you a list of approved facilities.

You may still have to choose from a number of centers. But your doctor can help you decide based on the type of cancer you have, the type of treatment needed, and your needs. It may also help to talk with other patients about where they had treatment.

Consider these issues before choosing a cancer treatment center:

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

  • How close is the center to your home or office?

  • What support services does the center offer to people with cancer and their families? Will you be able to work with social workers, dietitians, and other members of a health care team?

  • Does the center offer clinical trials?

  • If the center is far away from your home, 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. Although most cancer centers provide care for people with cancer, 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 conduct 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 diagnostic, 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. Review the Joint Commission’s performance report for a specific treatment center.

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 doctor to learn about the types of settings where you may receive treatment. 

Related Resources

When the Doctor Says “Cancer"

Making Decisions About Cancer Treatment

Managing Your Care

More Information

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

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