Factors to consider when choosing a hospital include:
Many types of hospitals offer treatment for breast cancer and each can give excellent 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 U.S. Some findings have shown the more breast cancer cases treated at a hospital each year, the better the care . However, other findings have shown no difference in survival among women treated at high volume hospitals and those treated at low volume hospitals .
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 standard care (currently given at most hospitals).
The type of hospital you choose depends on many factors. Besides quality of 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 plan.
Finally, if you have already chosen a physician, the choice of hospitals will be limited to those where he/she has practicing privileges.
When choosing a hospital, no single source gives a perfect measure of quality. However, combining information from several sources (listed below) can help you make an informed decision.
Referrals from trusted sources, such as your primary care provider, family, friends or other breast cancer survivors, are often the best way to find a good hospital.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) can also help you find a cancer center in your area. Call the NCI helpline (1-800-4-CANCER) or visit the NCI website.
Visiting a hospital before treatment begins lets you get a feel for the facility. Is the staff nice and helpful? Is the building well kept? Are the waiting areas, restrooms and lobby clean? These factors can be important in your decision-making.
Visiting a site also helps you learn how easy it is to get to from your home (and how easy it is to find parking). You can also find out what short-term lodging is available if you or a loved one needs a place to stay overnight.
A number of organizations rate the quality of medical centers in the U.S. Their ratings can be a good sign of the quality of care given by a center.
Many local and national magazines publish the "best" hospitals. For example, US News & World Report publishes “America's Best Hospitals” each year (view their most recent hospital honor roll). While these listings can be useful guides, excellent care is also provided by many hospitals not listed in these reports.
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