How Important Is the Size of the Hospital Providing My Breast Cancer Treatment?


At some hospitals, a team of doctors will review your case.(IMAGE SOURCE/VEER)Bigger is often better when it comes to selecting a hospital for your breast cancer treatment, but that's not always the case.

"If you're living in a small town and the nearest oncology center is a hundred miles away, you probably would want to get a second opinion from a major center," such as one of the National Cancer Institute's designated comprehensive cancer centers or a large hospital-based cancer center where multidisciplinary consultation can be obtained, says Edward M. Wolin, MD, a medical oncologist at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

At these larger centers, your case is often reviewed by a team of experts, with your lab slides and X-rays "shown on a big screen along with the pathology report—everybody looks at everything, and all of the different inputs are put in together," says Dr. Wolin.

More about treatment

On the other hand, a large center may not necessarily offer all the best specialists in town and some centers might specialize more in laboratory-based research than one-on-one clinical care (though all treat patients).

There are also pros and cons with university hospitals. A university may be at work on new drugs and treatments that may be beneficial to you, but as a teaching institution, "a lot of the care is being done at all levels of [doctors'] medical education," says Dr. Wolin.

The truth is, there's more to good breast cancer treatment than the size or mission of the institution. Experts advise sizing up your relationship with your doctors and how much experience they have in treating women with breast cancer. A woman can feel reassured, Dr. Wolin says, if she is "being seen in a relatively sophisticated environment where cases are discussed in a group of experts with multiple opinions and ideas."