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6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Cancer Center

By Steven J. Cohen, M.D., medical director, Asplundh Cancer Pavilion

As a medical oncologist, I often receive phone calls from friends and neighbors when they are at their most vulnerable, right after a cancer diagnosis.  Amidst their surprise and shock, they ask for advice about where to go for treatment.

Here is a summary of things every newly-diagnosed cancer patient should consider when deciding where to go for cancer care.

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  1. Comprehensive Care –A cancer program tied to a sophisticated, full service hospital with a network of primary care and specialty physicians who can closely coordinate outpatient, inpatient and emergency care, is key.  While most newly diagnosed patients have a singular goal—to survive and beat their cancer—there are more things to consider. Cancer treatment can result in side effects that occur after hours and on the weekends, and it’s best when medical records are available to ER staff if and when a cancer patient winds up in the ER. So choose a center that has a full service hospital behind it.
  2. A Multidisciplinary Team Approach– Treating cancer requires a multi-disciplinary team coordinating, recommending and carrying out a treatment plan.  Specialists like medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists and nurses should discuss each individual’s diagnosis and treatment options together to develop the best plan.
  3. A Strong Supportive Hospital—In addition to a full team working to fight a patient’s cancer, access to a supportive hospital with other medical disciplines, is important. Cancer patients often have other medical problems, which require ongoing medical care, particularly as treatments improve and patients do better over longer periods of time. This is increasingly important in an era of targeted therapies and immunotherapy playing larger roles. Side effects of these treatments can require the expertise of gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, and pulmonologists, to name a few.
  4. Clinical Trials—Centers that offer Phase I, II and II clinical trials offer patients more options. As new advances are made every day in clinical research, clinical trials can be an important option for cancer patients, especially those who have rare or aggressive cancers.
  5. Connection to an NCI-designated cancer center- The NCI designation reflects the gold standard of cancer care. NCI-designated centers provide access to the latest technologies for cancer prevention, detection and management. There are just 70 NCI-designated cancer centers in the United States, and the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center-Jefferson Health is one of them.
  6. Supportive & Compassionate Care—Above all, choose a center where the patient feels comfortable and confident in their care. Nurse navigators help patients feel at ease by filling in gaps in information and answering questions about diagnoses and treatment options. Services like image recovery, nutrition counseling, financial counseling and social work should be all in one place so coordination is easy for patients during the most stressful time.

Today, the Asplundh Cancer Pavilion opens—offering all of this in one place. I am very proud to be part of the team of doctors, nurse navigators, researchers, technicians, social workers and many more dedicated to providing skilled and compassionate care.

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