Best Hospitals for Lung Cancer Treatment: 7 Features To Look For | MyLungCancerTeam

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Best Hospitals for Lung Cancer Treatment: 7 Features To Look For

Medically reviewed by Hailey Pash, APN-BC
Posted on June 10, 2024

Choosing the right hospital for lung cancer treatment is one of the most critical decisions you can make in your health care journey. Lung cancer is a complex and aggressive disease that requires specialized and comprehensive care. The facility you choose can significantly influence your treatment outcomes and quality of life. From access to cutting-edge treatments to support services that cater to your emotional and physical needs, the right hospital can make all the difference.

In this guide, we outline the key features to look for when selecting a hospital for lung cancer treatment, ensuring you have the best possible team and resources on your side.

1. It Has a Specialized Lung Cancer Team

Some hospitals are better at treating lung cancer than others. Facilities with a dedicated team of lung cancer specialists are more likely to have the resources to give you the best care. Some of the specialists you’ll likely interact with include:

  • Medical oncologists — Specialists who oversee cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and immunotherapy
  • Pulmonologists — Doctors who focus on lung health and manage respiratory issues associated with lung cancer
  • Radiologists — Experts in imaging techniques, such as CT scans and MRIs, to diagnose and monitor cancer
  • Thoracic surgeons — Surgeons who perform operations on the lungs and other organs within the chest

In addition, look for a cancer treatment program that offers additional support groups, palliative care providers, and other patient-care resources that can improve your treatment experience.

Doing your research is especially important if you have a rare form of lung cancer. Larger hospitals may be experienced with a wider range of cancer types. You can ask if the facility has a tumor board of experts who meet to discuss the best treatment options for your diagnosis.

2. It’s In-Network With Your Insurance

Lung cancer treatment can be expensive. Costs can increase between procedures, testing, and follow-up visits with different specialists. That’s why it’s critical to know what to expect from your health insurance company before scheduling your medical care.

Many insurance plans require you to choose a facility and health care provider who is in-network. “In-network” means there’s already an agreement in place about the cost of care. Call your insurance carrier to check on your options and find out if there are any restrictions on where you can go for certain types of treatment. They should be able to provide you with a list of approved hospitals.

3. Its Cancer Care Team Makes You Feel Comfortable

Your lung cancer journey will include conversations with different doctors and nurses. You’ll talk with pulmonologists and respiratory therapists about your breathing, oncologists and oncology nurses about your cancer treatment options, and potentially other medical professionals — registered dietitians, physical therapists, social workers — about various aspects of your treatment, side effects, and mental health.

It’s essential to feel heard and supported during cancer treatment. You’ll want providers who show compassion, listen to your concerns, and explain your treatment plan in terms you understand. While you may prefer some of the staff members over others, there should always be someone you can reach out to when you have a question. In addition, respect is a non-negotiable that you should expect from all members of the hospital team.

If you get started with one facility and find out that it’s not right for you, you may be able to try another. “So glad to be able to get better treatment by changing hospitals and oncologists,” said a MyLungCancerTeam member.

Make your best judgment at the beginning of your treatment journey, and remember that it’s OK to change course later if needed.

4. The Surgeon Has a Lot of Experience

Look for a surgeon with experience doing any specific type of lung cancer surgery you may require. Don’t be afraid to ask about their training and background. Find out if they’ve operated on other people with the same diagnosis as yours. It’s also a good idea to consult with other surgeons for a second opinion before you make a decision. As mentioned above, check with your insurance to see if they will help pay for a second opinion or if there will be an out-of-pocket cost.

5. It’s Within a Reasonable Commute Distance

Getting to your treatment facility is the first step to getting the care you need. Unfortunately, medical centers that look great on paper aren’t always close to home. Keep location in mind as you seek high-quality care. Unless you plan to relocate to access a certain hospital, you’ll need to find a facility that you can regularly travel to.

Some MyLungCancerTeam members report driving several hours to reach their cancer center. However, this can be a major burden, especially in bad weather. “I’m still feeling good. I’m just tired from a long day and trip,” said one member. “They strongly encourage changing to a closer cancer center as treatment could be two years or more, and winter is a challenge.”

If your ideal cancer facility is far away, ask if they have any satellite locations where you can get some of your treatments. You can also ask your insurance carrier if your plan covers any travel expenses for medical appointments.

6. It’s an NCI-Designated Cancer Center

In 1971, the National Cancer Act created the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Centers Program. These cancer centers must meet strict standards to qualify for this special designation. There are 72 NCI-designated centers in the U.S., located among 36 states along with Washington D.C. They all receive funding from the NCI for treating people with cancer and advancing cancer research. These centers also offer clinical trials to test new cancer treatments.

Members of MyLungCancerTeam have shared positive experiences with NCI-designated facilities. “My opinion is to always use an NCI-designated cancer center,” said one member. “I believe an NCI-designated center is better. Am I sure? No, but I have been well-treated at the only NCI-designated cancer center in Oklahoma.”

To find an NCI-Designated Cancer Center, search for your state on the website.

7. The Facility Meets Strict Quality Standards

If you can’t travel to the nearest NCI-Designated Cancer Center, there are other ways to find a high-quality cancer center. The Joint Commission — an independent nonprofit — reviews health care facilities in the U.S. by evaluating various quality factors. To see how your local hospital measures up, you can call the Joint Commission's customer service department at 630-792-5800. You can also take a peek at the agency’s quality check website.

In addition, the American College of Surgeons runs a cancer quality program called Commission on Cancer. Sometimes these accredited centers are large hospitals, and other times, they’re small medical facilities. But to qualify, they must provide high-quality cancer care. Find the best facility you can based on your research, intuition, and recommendations from people you trust.

Find Your Team

MyLungCancerTeam is the social network for people with lung cancer and their loved ones. On MyLungCancerTeam, more than 12,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with lung cancer.

Have you found a comprehensive cancer center that meets your needs? What was most important to you when considering different cancer treatment hospitals? Share your suggestions in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on June 10, 2024
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Hailey Pash, APN-BC , a registered nurse and advanced practice nurse, holds a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of South Alabama. Learn more about her here.
Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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