What is an Approved Cancer Program?

Only one in four hospitals that treat cancer receive this special approval. It recognizes the quality of comprehensive cancer care available at a facility and offers a commitment that you will have access to all of the various medical specialists who are involved in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

The Commission on Cancer (CoC) Approvals Program encourages hospitals, treatment centers, and other facilities to improve their quality of patient care through various cancer-related programs. These programs are concerned with prevention, early diagnosis, pretreatment evaluation, staging, optimal treatment, rehabilitation, surveillance for recurrent disease, support services, and end-or-life care.


The availability of a full range of medical services along with a multidisciplinary team approach to patient care at approved cancer programs has resulted in approximately 80 percent of all newly diagnosed cancer patients being treated in CoC-approved cancer programs.

Recognizing that cancer is a complex group of diseases, the CoC Cancer Program Standards promote consultation among surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, pathologists, and other cancer specialists. This multidisciplinary cooperation results in improved patient care.

Five elements are key to the success of a Commission-approved cancer program:

  • The clinical services provide state-or-the-art pretreatment evaluation, staging, treatment and clinical follow-up for cancer patients seen at the facility for primary, secondary, tertiary, or quarternary care.
  • The cancer committee leads the program through setting goals, monitoring activity, evaluating patient outcomes, and improving care.
  • The cancer conferences provide a forum for patient consultation and contribute to physician education.
  • The quality improvement program is the mechanism for evaluating and improving patient outcomes.
  • The cancer registry and database is the basis for monitoring the quality of care.

Every CoC-approved cancer program must provide a host of basic services. These services are provided on-site at the facility, by referral, or are coordinated with other facilities or local agencies.

Approval by the Commission on Cancer is given only to those facilities that have voluntarily committed to provide the best in diagnosis and treatment of cancers. To meet the standards necessary for Commission approval, each cancer program, and the organization that controls it, must undergo a rigorous evaluation process and a review of its performance. In order to maintain approval, facilities with approved cancer programs must under an on-site review every three years.

Currently, there are approximately 1,500 Commission on Cancer approved cancer programs in the United States and Puerto Rico, representing close to 25 percent of all hospitals. In addition, there is a network of about 1,800 volunteer physician representatives who support cancer-control activities in their local communities.

So, as you begin thinking about treatment and ongoing care for your condition, you can be assured that you won't need to travel great distances from home, because the care you need is right in your own community. No one can guarantee the outcome of any type of treatment, but by coming to an approved cancer treatment program, you can be sure that you will receive the best in diagnosis and treatment of cancer and that full consultative services will be available from all medical disciplines involved in diagnosing and treating cancer. You can also be sure that your condition will be watched carefully through a lifelong program of follow-up care.