Mailbag: Cancer Treatment Centers of America & Lung Cancer

Cirugia de Torax answers one of the most frequently received email inquiries regarding lung cancer treatment and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

Update:  in March of 2014 (almost three years after our original post), the Cancer Treatment Centers of America announced the addition of a thoracic surgeon, Dr. Johnathan Kiev to their staff at the midwestern campus in Zion, Illinois.  

Here at Cirugia de, we receive quite a bit of email about lung cancer, and lung cancer treatment.  A significant portion of this email concerns questions regarding the efficacy and treatments available at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America – a commercial, for-profit chain of hospital facilities that advertise ‘holistic’ and specialized cancer treatment.

The company currently has four hospitals, spread across the United States (Philadelphia, PA, Arizona, Oklahoma and Illinois with additional facilities scheduled to open in 2012.)

This organization is particularly well-known due to a series of television advertisements with various actors making statements such as “when I woke up from surgery, my surgeon said I had cancer.  He had no compassion” etc, etc.  These commercials tend to be emotionally exploitative (in my opinion), but I thought I would investigate some of the treatments offered for thoracic cancers due to the volume of inquiries.

However, when perusing the information available on-line, including surgeon profiles – it was readily apparent that despite offering a wide range of therapies and information targeted at patients with lung / esophageal/ and other thoracic cancers – there are no board-certified or specialty trained thoracic surgeons currently working for this organization.  The majority of surgeons listed are general surgeons, with a few head and neck surgeons.  In fact, there are only 2 general surgeons at each facility (as well as a plastic surgeon at each facility – listed under ‘breast surgeon’.)

This hospital chain – doesn’t offer thoracic surgical procedures despite advertising heavily for these patients. (Some of the terminology used on their website is vague – but lobectomies, lung resections, esophagectomies are not specifically mentioned.) The website alludes to this fact – in one small section – stating that ‘we’ll give you treatments when others can’t” or at least the assumption that the centers are only treating advanced (late stage) lung cancers is expressed.  But on another section of the site, they advertise diagnostic modalities for diagnose lung cancer – so it’s not the most open/ easily understood website from the patient perspective.

So – to answer previous inquiries, “What about the Cancer Treatment Centers of America?  Is that a good place to go for lung cancer?”

Short answer:  No. (or at least not yet.)

Detailed answer:  As we’ve discussed before, the best long-term outcomes for lung cancer are obtained via surgery.  The first stop after a lung cancer diagnosis should be to see a thoracic surgeon.  After a discussion of your particular circumstances (stages, burden of disease etc.) your thoracic surgeon will be better able to determine whether surgery is an option.  Until this determination has been made, all other therapies/ holistic treatments/ supplements/ etc. should be considered secondary.  These are not the best first-line treatments for someone with surgically manageable disease.

Only after this determination – should/ could patients consider receiving additional or adjuvant treatments in facilities such as the organization mentioned above.

please note – Cirugia de does not dispense or provide medical advice, and does not answer individualized/ specific medical or surgical questions.  Questions should be general in nature.  Replies are for basic consumer education, and none of the information provided on this site should be considered in lieu of a medical consultation with a board certified health care provider. 

Additional information –

1. Commercial – a particularly vague ‘cancer’ commercial emphasising holistic / ‘alternative’ treatments.  As a nurse, this specific commercial is rather offensive to me.

2. Cancer treatment center of america – website