MD Anderson vs. Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Hi everyone, I'm new to this site, in fact I joined just to be able to post this question. On January 22, 2008 my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. I won't bore y'all with all of the details of her treatment thus far, and instead I'll just get to my main focus here. Due to further developments with her cancer my mother has asked me to look into information about MD Anderson in Houston, TX and Cancer Treatment Centers of America (most likely the one located in Tulsa, OK). Although we are originally from Houston we now currently live in GA just north of Atlanta. If any one has any experience, opinions or advice regarding one or both of these institutes I would really appreciate your feedback.
Thanks in advance!

Report post

19 replies. Join the discussion

MD Anderson is more respected. Good luck where ever you go.

Report post

I have been treated at MD Anderson and have been very satisfied with my care.

Report post

MD Anderson, for too many reasons to enumerate, here. Considered #1 in the country. Do things there where they do at very few places. Good luck!

Report post

I have a book, "Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips" and MD Anderson was listed as the #1 place to go to ( out of the 10 that they listed). I would go there and I wish I did!!!
Good luck.

Report post

I live just below you in Jacksonville Florida and I went to MD Anderson almost 2 years ago for my Stage IV NSCLC diagnosis.
I had stereo tactic radiation to one brain met (one-shot radiation), had very low dose chemo (6 small infusions) while receiving proton radiation to my chest tumor (7 weeks of rdaily radiation).
Although I was Stage IV, they offered to do the proton radiation whereas no other facility in the country would have touched me or even considered it at my stage of cancer.
They saved my life. I am living healthy - more healthy than I have been in years. No sign of cancer in sight.
That's the great news.
The flip side is that they are a HUGE institution...their facility takes up many city blocks. Because they are so big and because they are a research facility primarily, your mom will probably be treated by a very strict protocol...they do things THEIR way and must follow their guidelines.
An example is again my own care. Because I was really a Stage IV but they treated me as a Stage III, if I ever wanted to be involved in a clinical study there (which I don't), they would never be able to fit me in because I will not fit their guidelines.
In the Thoracic Department, they did not treat me well...the particular oncologist I had was too busy, etc., to deal with me really. However, as I said the treatment I got in the Proton Center was too fantastic to even describe. It boils down to WHO you have treating you NOT where you go really.
If I were you I would go there, meet with the oncologist, hear what their treatment plan was for you than go get another opinion, even CTCA if you like them. A friend of mine on this board is a 10+ year survivor and she swears by CTCA...again, many times it's who not where at the end of the day.
I would also suggest to you, after she decides where she wants to go, look into complementary medicine too. MDA doesn't have a clue about diet, supplements, etc., even though she might meet with a nutritionist there. They are not really versed in nutrition, they are drug based. Be VERY proactive with her diet and exercise. As I said, I am still here, still healthy, and I eat over 30 veggies a day, 9+ fruits, only salmon for meat protein, little grains, etc., and I exercise every day. At MD Anderson my oncologist told me "anything I want to eat is okay". Twinkies? hahaha She also told me I'd be gone by now. She was wrong on both counts and she was at the prestigious MD Anderson...
What ever you do, I will pray that God grants you the wisdom to be led down the path He has planned for you. Listen to your gut...go with God.

Report post

Hi TXRedHead,
We went to the Cancer Centers of Am. in Zion IL with our mom (she lived N. of Tampa) at the time. They were wonderful. She initially needed 3 weeks radiation, which they offer housing for a reasonable rate @ $25 a day. My sister and my mom went for the 3 weeks and then once a month, one of us would accompany her to her treatment which was @ 2 days.

At this time with the proton treatments MD is offering if you can get your mom into it I think it would be very beneificial to her.

Lastly, I know in Atlanta Emory is making great stides with their comprehensive cancer center - not certain where you are going right now.

I know it's scray but education is the key as Ellen said there are complimentary medicines out there. I read a book PH MIRACLE LIVING by Dr. Robert Young. He explains how the body can heal itself if we give it the things it needs. It's a great book, I have my sister doing his protocol and she is a 1yr survivor (yeah)!
I got a copy of his book from the library. Read pages 179-181 very inspiring story of a lung cancer survivor.

Becky :)

Report post

MD Anderson is ranked #1.

I initially wondered about Cancer Treatment Centers of America, too. After all, we'd go anywhere if it meant a better outcome.

A friend of mine who worked for a well-respected "Comprehensive" Cancer Center told me that while Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) may have posh patient rooms, that their patient survival statistics were comparable to other hospitals and were not better than favorably ranked comprehensive cancer centers. In my friend's opinion, the CTCA spends more on marketing than other facilities, and projects a very optimistic and promising image.

Having shared an opinion, I should add the disclaimer that I've never contacted or been to a CTCA facility.


Report post

I went to CTCA in Philly for a second opinion at the time I was diagnosed with stage IV nsclc. I got the same diagnosis and treatment plan that I was offered at home by the Cancer Care Clinic of Maine. I chose to treat at home rather than travel to Philly every 3 weeks, especially through the winter. I will say the the atmosphere and attitudes there are outstanding.
They were VERY PATIENT ORIENTED. Every thing that could be done to make the patient comfortable and relaxed, was done. Their complementary medicines were also an integral part of their program.

I have done 8 chemo treatments here of carboplatin/Taxol/Avastin, 28 daily radiation treatments, and am now starting on Tarceva daily, as the cancer has infiltrated further.

I can't speak to the other facility as I am not familiar with it. So for what it is worth, that is my impression of CTCA.

You are in my thoughts and prayers, and I have to agree that it is who, not where you treat that makes the difference. Your mom has to be comfortable with the doctor and have faith in their ability.

Stay positive, have faith, and know that we are all here for you if you to talk.


Report post

I'm the friend and 10+ year IIIB NSCLC survivor Ellen mentioned above. I was treated at CTCA in Tulsa, and I credit them with saving my life. They have the latest conventional treatment (well, not proton radiation), which they administer and monitor very carefully, and they offer classes and individual appointments with naturopathic physicians, nutritionists, psychologists, and chaplains, at no extra charge. They also treat patients extremely well.

At the end of my treatment, my 7x8 cm tumor had shrunk down to 2.5 cm and my CTCA oncologist said it was probably dead scar tissue. At that point, I went to MDA for another opinion, in case they might suggest something additional, like surgery. They concurred that I should not have surgery, or any other treatment. Three months later the tumor had shrunk away to a scar.

I'm very pleased I went to CTCA. They go the extra mile for the patient.

Best of luck with your decision.


Report post

I appreciate all of y'alls time and consideration, and thank you greatly for all of your feedback.

Report post

It just may be "six of one, a half dozen of the other."

According to the National Cancer Policy Board of the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, in its report Ensuring Quality Cancer Care, survival rates immediately following complicated cancer surgery are two to three times higher at facilities that perform a high volume of these procedures. Cancer patients needing such treatments therefore should be served in more-experienced settings.

Local community hospitals are much more iffy, especially if the surgeons there are not board certified in surgical oncology and/or have not performed surgeries on many patients with successful outcomes.

Large academic cancer institutions that are soulfully involved in clinical trials feel a subtle pull towards getting patients involved in those trials. Some researchers may discourage patient empowerment so they can call the shots through these trials.

There's a lot of young oncologists that are encouraged to publish. Their promotion at academic centers is dependent on publication. So many of them may be encouraged to put together a protocol in which they take new drugs and treat a small number of patients with a certain disease in a phase II trial.

It is mostly true that local community cancer centers may not have the high level of clinical suspicion about the disease as comprehensive cancer centers. So they've tried to broaden their appeal by encompassing community hospital oncology practices. Some of these researchers seem to have a readiness to believe that the clinical trial is more reasonable for the patient and that other options do not offer an advantage.

There was a shift, some twenty years ago, from the institution-based, inpatient setting to community-based, ambulatory sites for treating the majority of the nation's cancer patients.

The chemotherapy regimen chosen by most community oncologists is usually based on the type of cancer being treated. However, there are factors other than the type of cancer that can be used to determine the ideal chemotherapy drugs that should be used to treat an individual patient.

And then there's US Onoclogy that manages the business affairs of 1,000 community cancer doctors, injecting practices with financial savy and a competitiveness seldom seen in medicine. US Oncology's affiliated physicians treat over 550,000 patients a year - one in seven new cancer sufferers.

Dr. Neil Love reported in a survey of breast cancer oncologists based in academic medical centers and community based, private practice medical oncologists. The former oncologists do not derive personal profit from the administration of infusion chemotherapy, the latter oncologists do derive personal profit from infusion chemotherapy, while deriving no profit from prescribing oral-dosed chemotherapy.

The results of the survey could not have been more clear-cut. For first line chemotherapy of metastatic breast cancer, 84-88% of the academic center-based oncologists (who are motivated to keep off-protocol patients out of their chemotherapy infusion rooms to reserve these rooms for on-protocol patients) prescribed an oral-dose drug (capecitabine), while only 13% prescribed infusion drugs, and none of them prescribed the expensive, highly remunerative drug docetaxel.

In contrast, among the commuity-based oncologists, only 18% prescribed the non-remunerative oral-dose drug (capecitabine), while 75% prescribed remunerative infusion drugs, and about 40% prescribed the expensive, highly remunerative drug docetaxel.

I doubt Dr. Love had a clue to the meaning of his own data. he probably just thought it was interesting how community oncologists differed in their prescribing preferences from the academics. I doubt if he noted the reimbursement implications of prescribing an oral dose drug on one hand and an infusion drug on the other hand, and appreciate how his data constituted a smoking gun with respect to what has been going on in the world of cancer chemotherapy.

Many times, we don't necessarily make right or wrong decisions, just informed decisions. Wherever you go, discussions of risk need to be as thoroughly thought out and presented as much as possible. That is the best way to make sure that you can make the right choice for your situation.

Informing cancer patients of the benefits and risks specific to a new or existing treatment helps ensure patients are safely and effectively treated. A trusting partnership between doctor and patient that facilitates informed consent is a goal for many proactive patients. Such a partnership requires an understanding of all the factors that lead to a treatment recommendation.

Report post

I would recommend MD Anderson Cancer Center.


Report post

I'm very sorry to hear about your mother. I used to work for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and I can tell you they only care about your money. The people who answer the phone are commisioned sales people who don't get paid for Medicare patients and are TRAINED to deter Medicare patients. MD Anderson is an excellent hospital and they do excellent work. I got so sick of turning patients away who did not have "good insurance" and Medicare patients that I quit working. Good luck with your mother.

Report post

My mom has been diagnosed as having stage 3B nsclc adenocarcinoma. She was a heavy smoker for over 40 years but quit about a year or two ago. The pulminologist scared the whole family by saying she had 3-6 months w/o chemo and 18 months at best with chemo. She starts her first chemo treatment in about 4 hours. You have given me a lot of hope saying that it has been over 10 years since your diagnosis. My mom and I are best friends and I am not ready for anything to happen to her. She has a tumor that is 3 cm. It has spread to her lymph nodes, to the mediasternum and clavical area. She is going to a local cancer center for treatment. I am wondering if I need to encourage her to go to Cancer Treatment Centers of America? The oncologist sounded more positive than the pulminologist. I want her to have the best care. It is her life and my whole entire family's well-being that is at stake here. She is a wonderful mom and mamaw and we all need her as long as we can. I guess I sound selfish. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Report post

Whoops! I meant MD Anderson. Where are they located? We are in KY.

Report post

Hi Rick,
I know CTCA pretty much only takes patients with insurance, however when my mom was accepted by them half way thru her treatments she ended up 'maxing' out on her insurance cap. The center still allowed her to come for treatments, though the end result was my mom passed away from the lung cancer.
The hospital ended up 'waving' all the medical bills after she passed.

I guess if she had survived, she probably would of had to declare bankrupcy as the medical bills would have been more than she would have been able to pay off.

Guess that's why insurance companies need regulations that they can't cap a person's medical coverage. If you have a severe illness, the cost of treatments will bankrupt a family with or without insurance.


Report post

Hi Missy,

I go to the CTCA in Tulsa, OK. There is also one in Philadelphia, Zion, IL, and Phoenix. You can call any of their numbers and they can help you figure out which one is closest and best for your mom. They will also check your insurance for you. They are particular about the insurance they accept, but if they take your mom's insurance, it's a great place and I think you will be glad to go there.

Best wishes,

Report post

Hi Ellen,
Thanks for providing all the information on MD Anderson. My mom is going to MD Anderson for a second opinion on October 5th. She's scheduled to see Dr. Glisson.

When we first found out in February 2009, I contacted CTCA in Zion, IL. They were very nice, but it was something that just didn't make me comfortable. We decided to go with University of Chicago and everything seemed to be going good until the unsuccessful surgery, so that's why we're getting a second opinion at MD.

Take care,

Report post

Hi Maikin,
I'm sorry to hear about your mother. My mother was diagnosed with stage 3 nslc in February 2009. We've gone through radiation, two round of chemo & an unsuccessful surgery and we're still fighting. Please try not to listen to the anyone give you time limits because it's all in GOD's hands. As much as you can, try to be there with your mom during her chemo treatments, doctor appointments, ask any question that you want answered and don't be afraid to seek advice on this site. All of these people are or know someone going dealing with this disease too and provide excellent advice. They have given me hope and encouragement. Please feel free to contact me whenever you feel like it.

Take care,

Report post

This discussion is closed to replies. We close all discussions after 90 days.

If there's something you'd like to discuss, click below to start a new discussion.

Photo of Dave Grant

The Lung Cancer Survivors Support Community has provided support for patients, caregivers, families and friends since 2006. We welcome over 600 new members every month in the fight against lung cancer.

ALK mutations and lung cancer

Join the discussion about ALK mutations and lung cancer

Things you can do

Discussion topics

Community leaders