Cancer care at the highest level


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Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of just two NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in Texas.

Cancer can be intimidating.

So can deciding where to go when cancer enters your life – whether you’re looking for screening, diagnosis, treatment, or even a second opinion. How to select the right cancer center for you or your loved one begins with knowing that the best cancer care is within your reach. You don’t need to settle for less than the best, no matter where you live or what your circumstance.

The NCI difference

But how does one start the process of selecting a cancer center? With help from the National Cancer Institute – a part of the National Institutes of Health, the federal government’s top health authority. NCI has provided a special distinction for cancer centers around the nation. They’re called NCI-designated cancer centers, and they are where you want your cancer care to begin and end.

Here’s why: Along with offering the highest-quality care, NCI designated cancer centers are constantly probing cancer’s mysteries; they conduct exploratory research into the disease, and then take their discoveries and translate them into effective new treatments for patients. In fact, new and improved therapies developed at NCI cancer centers have helped significantly increase the number of cancer survivors in this country and greatly enhanced patients’ quality of life.

That’s an important, lifesaving difference you won’t find just anywhere.

Achieving ‘Comprehensive’ status

NCI further distinguishes some of its designated cancer centers with a comprehensive status, an even more elite distinction among the NCI-designated centers. The comprehensive status further delineates extraordinary efforts by these cancer centers for patient care, research, and technology, along with outreach efforts aimed at prevention and screening to help diagnose and assess cancer risks across the broader population. That’s important because 5 to 10 percent of the population has genetically identifiable cancer risks.

We know how rigorous the vetting process is because NCI has awarded UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center this highest designation. We’re one of just 45 cancer centers nationally to receive this distinction. They can be found across the country, and we all serve populations across large swaths of our respective regions. For example, although located in North Texas, UT Southwestern provides care to patients living across the central United States. A complete listing and map is available here.

Among the factors that set NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers apart is that they combine top-quality care with the research and technology that advance the treatment and prevention of cancer. These top-shelf cancer centers are dedicated to improving results in how to manage disease, so you can be reassured they are up to date on the latest findings and armed with information on what works, as well as the latest options for cancer treatments. NCI-designated cancer centers are dedicated to making available the latest technologies for imaging and diagnosis and tailoring treatments to your specific situation. Being able to teleconference with your hometown physician may be valuable for you, for example.

The importance of integrated, individualized care

The ability to find the best fit for treatment of your cancer and tailor it to other health issues you may have, such as diabetes or heart conditions, calls for integrative care – the ability to pull together a team of experts from various fields. For example, at UT Southwestern, Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center includes more than 200 members from over 30 departments and centers campuswide and offers more than a dozen major cancer care programs. Integration is a critical component in distinguishing cancer centers and is core to the care philosophy governing comprehensive cancer centers.

Another ideal is to have cancer caregivers interacting with and in the same environment as researchers who are developing the advanced treatments and technologies. The importance and potential impact of this is often overlooked, so when you’re seeking a place for care, ask about the research component of your center. UT Southwestern currently receives more than $100 million annually for cancer research from the NCI and other NIH and peer-reviewed funding agencies, including the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Our Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center also is among about 30 U.S. cancer research centers to be named a National Clinical Trials Network Lead Academic Site. The designation and associated funding bolster clinical cancer research, providing patients with access to NCI-sponsored cancer research trials, in which promising new drugs often are tested. That may be of particular interest if traditional treatments aren’t working.

Innovation, expertise, passion

A final consideration is to look at the support mechanisms the cancer center is able to provide – factors such as social services, psychological counseling, support groups, and nutritional experts. They all factor into the kind of attention you can expect to receive.

Obtaining the NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center distinction requires commitment from all levels – an administration willing to commit to and invest in technology and facilities, expertise in a wide range of medical fields, and friendly people who will bring a passion equal to your own in your battle against cancer.

NCI-designated centers have not only pledged, but proven, that commitment on all fronts − from patient care to research, partnerships to population outreach. They offer a demonstrated wealth of knowledge, resources, technology, innovation, and passion.

Consider taking advantage.