Here’s what you and your family should know about cancer treatment centers for mesothelioma patients.
What is a cancer treatment center?
Cancer treatment centers (sometimes known as CTCs) are dedicated facilities for cancer treatment and care. Some are independent, while others are associated with a larger hospital or university. While many local and community hospitals do provide basic cancer services, sometimes including tumor removal surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and palliative care, CTCs are exclusively focused on cancer care, sometimes specializing in one or several types of cancer.
CTCs take a collaborative approach to cancer treatment. Care is provided by multidisciplinary teams that develop treatment plans based on the needs of each patient, informed by the latest research. Most CTCs offer many different elements of cancer care, and treatment teams may consist of:
- Oncologists, Specialists, and Surgeons
- Radiation Therapists
- Oncology nurses
- Physical therapists
- Pain management specialists
- Psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors
- Social workers
- Insurance specialists
- Cancer navigators and patient advocates
- Family support specialists and support group facilitators
CTCs employ specialists and top minds in oncology and are often involved in wider research and clinical studies. They have access to the latest information and most cutting-edge technology and treatments, allowing them to develop and execute the most effective therapies available for each patient. They also have advanced diagnostic testing and pathology centers, which can be crucial when seeking second opinions and when charting the course of treatment—especially when it comes to treatments like targeted gene therapy, in which diagnostics are used to map out your genes and establish which type of treatment will work best for you.
Most cancer treatment centers offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment—that is, treatment while staying at the hospital, and treatment during day appointments. Your care team can help you decide whether inpatient or outpatient treatment is right for you.
Are there different types of cancer treatment centers?
Each cancer treatment center differs somewhat, offering different services and specialties with unique pros and cons. It is important to read reviews, look at national rankings, and consider the offerings of each CTC carefully.
One important differentiation is made by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of the definitive leaders on cancer in the U.S. The NCI lists 72 CCC’s in 36 states and the District of Columbia as NCI-Designated Cancer Centers. They are quality-assured, monitored, and funded in part by the NCI, which further divides them into three sub-categories:
- Basic Laboratory Cancer Centers: These 7 centers are primarily research-focused and do not generally offer treatment outside of clinical trials.
- Cancer Centers: These 11 centers have established themselves in terms of scientific leadership, resources, and extensive research accomplishments. They each deliver cutting-edge cancer treatments to patients in addition to clinical trials and research.
- Comprehensive Cancer Centers: The 54 centers with this designation meet all of the qualifications for cancer centers, with the additional qualification of meeting the highest standards for leadership and resources, as well as even more ground-breaking multidisciplinary research. They tend to have strong patient support programs, amenities, and educational efforts.
Why should a mesothelioma patient consider a cancer center?
It is possible to receive quality cancer treatment outside of a cancer treatment center. However, when it comes to a rare cancer like mesothelioma, patients may benefit significantly from treatment at a cancer center in a number of ways.
- Experienced specialists to tailor treatment: While many community hospitals have oncologists on-staff, and perhaps even lung cancer specialists, mesothelioma patients need to be treated by mesothelioma specialists, who have the knowledge and experience to accurately treat such a rare condition. Most mesothelioma experts work with or for cancer treatment centers, and most cutting-edge mesothelioma research happens in conjunction with these centers. Working with an experienced mesothelioma oncologist, as well as a mesothelioma-educated care team, gives mesothelioma patients the best chance at a good outcome, and may extend survival. It is important to seek out a mesothelioma cancer center that has experience treating your exact type of mesothelioma (i.e., pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, etc.), including cell type (i.e., epithelioid, sarcomatoid, biphasic), and staging (i.e., Stage 0-IV; primary tumors with the same size and extent as yours, with the same type of metastasis or spread, etc.).
- Accurate diagnostics and second opinions: When it comes to any cancer diagnosis, second opinions and accurate diagnostics are critical. This is especially true for mesothelioma, which has a long latency period and is difficult to diagnose, making misdiagnosis or mis-staging of mesothelioma very common. Cancer treatment centers have the most accurate diagnostic and pathology centers for mesothelioma patients, and have the experience, skill, and resources to use that information most effectively in developing each patient’s mesothelioma treatment plan.
- Cutting-edge treatments: While community hospitals may offer certain basic cancer treatments for mesothelioma (i.e., radiation, chemotherapy, tumor removal surgery, and some palliative care), the more advanced and experimental treatments are usually performed exclusively at mesothelioma treatment centers. Some of these treatments, like immunotherapy, targeted gene therapy, intraoperative photodynamic therapy, pleurectomy/decortication (P/T), stem cell treatment, and HIPEC/Cytoreduction, have been game-changers for many mesothelioma patients.
- Clinical trials: Another crucial benefit of cancer treatment centers is access to mesothelioma clinical trials. These trials offer emerging and otherwise inaccessible treatments to mesothelioma patients, which may significantly improve their outcomes overall. Patients participating in clinical trials often have better outcomes than patients who don’t, regardless of whether they get the treatment or a placebo. While patients do not necessarily have to be enrolled in a cancer treatment center to participate in clinical studies, a mesothelioma specialist is better equipped to identify the right clinical trials for you. Many cancer treatment centers also have support specialists that connect patients with trials.
- Essential services and continuum of care: Cancer treatment centers offer a proverbial “one-stop-shop” for mesothelioma treatment and care needs. Outside of cancer centers, patients may have to go to several unconnected or loosely affiliated providers, who may not be able to work together fluidly. Cancer treatment centers, on the other hand, offer many if not all of the various elements of mesothelioma care in one place. This ensures that mesothelioma patients continue to receive treatment from the same specialized team, in a way that considers their best interests far more consistently and continually than more decentralized care. Outside of treatment and related care, mesothelioma treatment centers offer services like nutrition, physical therapy, and emotional/psychological counseling, as well as support from patient advocates, social workers, and financial/insurance navigators. Since patients often travel long distances to get treatment, many centers also work with families to arrange accommodations, and offer community resources like support groups and mental health services.
Are you or a loved one looking for more information about mesothelioma? Call (855) 385-9532 to schedule a free initial consultation.