What to Expect From Your Hospital
State-of-the-art care also includes a particular attitude about cancer care. The most important attitude is hope. About one-half of all newly diagnosed patients will be cured! Years ago, most people felt completely hopeless about cancer, and the general attitude was that cancer meant an automatic death sentence. Cancer today is a chronic illness, not necessarily a fatal one. It is important that the hospital staff has an attitude of optimism, hope, and confidence in its ability to help you get on with your life.
Your hospital should meet several basic standards. It should be accredited by the JCAHO (Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations), with full accreditations by the American College of Surgeons, and licensure by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Your hospital should also have or participate in a Tumor Registry. This is important because it means the hospital collects confidential information about cancer that will be used in research to learn more about the disease and its treatments.
Cancer treatment requires a "multidisciplinary" approach. This means that more than one doctor will be involved in treatment decisions. For instance, a medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and pathologist should review your medical history and tests and recommend what they consider to be your best treatment choice. They will then share this recommendation with your doctor, who should talk it over with you and your loved ones (if you choose) and help you decide on the best treatment. If you are uncertain, you can always ask for a second opinion.
If your cancer should metastasize (spread to another part of your body) while you are on standard treatment, your doctor may make a recommendation about another form of treatment. You may also want to consider a second opinion. You should always feel free to ask for a consultation with another expert in the field. Your own doctor can suggest whom to see for another opinion and how to arrange it.
Experimental or research treatments are those being tested to see whether or not they can control cancer better than the standard treatments. For most cancers, especially those in the early stages, standard treatments are used. If your cancer has recurred after your first treatment, you may want to consider an experimental treatment. (See INVESTIGATIONAL TREATMENTS) The point is that if your hospital and its staff does not participate in experimental treatments, you should be referred to such a place, if that is your wish.