Understanding Cancer Treatment Facilities

Each type of facility offers treatment and related services for cancer patients, but each is unique in certain ways .These facilities may offer both inpatient and outpatient care. Patients who are admitted to the facility and stay overnight or for weeks or months are referred to as inpatients. Those who come to the facility for diagnostic or treatment services and then go home are outpatients.

To help you understand the differences and similarities between the types of cancer treatment facilities and to choose the right facility for you, here is a description of each below.

NCI-Designated Cancer Centers

The National Cancer Act of 1971 authorized the establishment of new cancer centers and the support of existing ones through the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Today, the NCI runs a Cancer Centers Program that supports major academic and research institutions throughout the United States with financial grants.

Under this program, the NCI has designated 68 cancer facilities as meeting its criteria for scientific and research excellence. The NCI recognizes two types of facilities: cancer centers and comprehensive cancer centers. These centers may be freestanding, part of a teaching hospital, or part of a group of cancer centers.

Facilities designated by the NCI as cancer centers conduct basic science research, clinical research, and population research. Most also provide patient care, but several only conduct laboratory research into cancer. The centers that provide care must conduct innovative clinical trials (research studies of new therapies that include patients) and participate in cooperative clinical trials with other institutions.

Facilities designated as comprehensive cancer centers conduct research and provide care to cancer patients. They must demonstrate expertise in laboratory research, clinical research, and behavioral and population-based research. Comprehensive centers must also conduct innovative clinical trials and participate in cooperative clinical trials with other institutions. In addition, they are expected to provide the public and health- care professionals with information on advances in cancer care.

For more information and a list of centers, go to www.cancer.gov/research/nci-role/cancer-centers/find

ACS-Accredited Cancer Centers

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Commission on Cancer audits and approves cancer programs in hospitals, treatment centers, and other facilities committed to providing high-quality cancer care that meets the Commission’s standards for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

These cancer centers offer cancer prevention services, pretreatment evaluation, cancer staging, optimal treatment, rehabilitation, monitoring of disease progression, psychological and social support, and end-of-life care. For a list of Commission-approved cancer programs, go to www.facs.org/search/cancer-programs.

Teaching Hospitals

Teaching hospitals train medical students, physician residents, nurses, and other health-care professionals in the art and science of medicine. These hospitals are usually linked to a medical school in an academic medical center and they generally include research programs.

Teaching hospitals provide a full range of patient-care services and maintain treatment centers, including cancer centers, that offer innovative, experimental, and technically sophisticated patient care. Treatment advances that originate in research laboratories in medical schools are incorporated into patient care in teaching hospitals through clinical research programs.

The Association of American Medical Colleges maintains a directory of member teaching hospitals at https://members.aamc.org/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?site=AAMC&webcode=AAMCOrgSearchResult&orgtype=Hospital/Health%20System.

Children's Hospitals

These specialized hospitals treat infants, children, and adolescents up to age 21 with pediatric disorders, injuries, and diseases, including childhood cancers. They may be teaching hospitals as well, and their physicians, nurses, and other health-care professionals have specialized training in caring for children. These professionals may also conduct research into childhood diseases.

The Children’s Hospital Association maintains a list of member hospitals at www.childrenshospitals.org/Directories/Hospital-Directory.

General Hospital

Your community hospital is probably a general hospital, one that provides patient care for a wide variety of diseases and injuries. General hospitals typically have large numbers of beds for intensive and long-term care as well as specialized facilities for surgery, childbirth, radiology, emergency medicine, and laboratory testing

Very large general hospitals are often called medical centers, and they usually provide services in virtually every field of medicine. To find a general hospital or medical center near you, go to www.ahd.com/freesearch.php.

Bone-marrow Transplant Center

Bone-marrow transplantation is a medical procedure that involves replacing diseased bone marrow — the spongy material inside our bones that contains hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells, the cells that eventually become red and white blood cells and blood platelets — with healthy bone marrow stem cells.

In the past, physicians took stem cells from the bone marrow of a healthy donor and transplanted them directly to the marrow of a patient with cancer or a disease of the blood or bone marrow. With modern technology, however, physicians now usually harvest stem cells from the blood of a donor or the patient’s own blood, making the procedure safer and easier. These stem cells are cleansed of any disease and injected into the recipient intravenously, just like a blood transfusion.

Most stem cell recipients are leukemia or lymphoma patients and other types of cancer patients receiving high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Stem cell transplants are also used for patients with multiple myeloma. The procedure boosts your immune system, helping your body fight infections and your cancer and withstand chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Bone marrow transplant centers are specialized centers located in hospitals and medical centers throughout the United States in which skilled teams of health care professionals perform these transplant procedures. For additional listing information of transplant centers by state, go to the National Marrow Donor Program Web site at https://bethematch.org/For-Patients-and-Families/Getting-a-transplant/Choosing-a-transplant-center/U-S--transplant-centers.

You can also get a listing of bone-marrow and stem-cell transplant facilities from the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), a non-profit corporation co-founded by the International Society for Cellular Therapy and the American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation. FACT inspects and accredits facilities to promote high-quality patient care. For a listing of accredited facilities in your state or Canada, go to the FACT website (www.factwebsite.org) and click on “View FACT Accredited Organizations” under the search bar at the top of the page.

More Information

  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network is an alliance of 26 cancer centers dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of cancer care. For a list of member institutions, click on Find an NCCN Member Institution.
  • International Union Against Cancer (UICC) is the world’s largest independent, non-profit, non-governmental association of cancer-fighting organizations. It brings together voluntary cancer societies, research and treatment centers, public health authorities, patient support networks, and advocacy groups for collective action against cancer. Its Web site lists member organizations, including cancer centers, around the world. For the list of cancer centers and organizations, click on Members.
  • Local.com is an excellent site for locating cancer centers in your area. Click here and type in your city under the title"local" in the upper left corner. Then type in  “cancer centers” in the search area "Find Businesses" for a listing of cancer centers close to home.
  • CureSearch is a service of the Children’s Oncology Group, the world’s largest childhood cancer research organization, and the National Childhood Cancer Foundation.
  • Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy lists accredited blood and marrow transplant facilities on its site.