Factors to consider when choosing a hospital include:
- Type of hospital
- The approach to care
- Cost for services
Type of hospital
Many types of hospitals offer treatment for breast cancer and each can give excellent care.
- National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Centers are hospitals and medical centers noted for their high quality of science and research in cancer care.
- Academic cancer centers are affiliated with medical schools and tend to place a high priority on research.
- Non-academic medical centers are not directly affiliated with a medical school. These medical centers may do research, but their main focus is patient care.
The number of people treated at a hospital (hospital volume) may or may not be linked to the quality of breast cancer care in the United States. Some studies have shown the more breast cancer cases treated at a hospital each year, the better the care [2-3]. However, other studies have found no difference in survival among women treated at high volume hospitals and those treated at low volume hospitals [4-5].
Many hospitals use multidisciplinary teams to diagnose and treat breast cancer. In a team approach to care, all the health care providers involved in diagnosis and treatment meet as a group and coordinate care. This approach may provide better care by increasing communication between providers and decreasing the time between diagnosis and treatment. The National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers is working to improve quality of care in medical centers that offer multidisciplinary breast cancer care.
At this time, there is not enough information on the benefits of a multidisciplinary team approach to recommend it over the standard care currently received at most hospitals.
Other factors to consider
The type of hospital you choose depends on many factors. Besides quality care, transportation and insurance coverage can also play a role in your decision.
NCI-designated Cancer Centers and academic centers tend to be located in larger cities. This can make travel to and from treatment difficult if you live far away.
Another factor is cost. Not all physicians and medical centers are covered by all health insurance plans. With the high cost of breast cancer treatment, you may prefer care from the providers and centers covered under your health insurance plans.
Finally, if you have already chosen a physician, the choice of hospitals will be limited to those where he/she has practicing privileges.