Best Children's Hospitals: Cancer

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, Medical Conditions, Health & Safety: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Health & Safety: Big Kids, Health & Safety: Teens, Development Health, Expert Advice: Health, Health

St Jude Children's Research Hospital

At St. Jude's, no child is denied care because their family can't pay for treatment. Credit: Seth Dixon, St Jude Children's Research Hospital

When your child is ill, only the best care is good enough. So we're highlighting the hospitals that are leading the way in research, innovation, treatment and, most importantly, patient care. This is the third in the series on best children's hospitals in the United States.

Leah Heilman-Pollack was 11 when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). For nearly five years, the Portland, Ore., youngster virtually moved into the Doernbecher Children's Hospital's pediatric cancer ward, as she valiantly battled the disease. Two and a half years into treatment, she was diagnosed with myelodysplasia, the precursor to an even more serious form of leukemia. Leah would need a bone marrow stem cell transplant.

"During her cancer years, the treatment Leah received was amazing," says her mother, Laurie Heilman. "With both cancers, there are nationally established protocols that dictate the best-known and most thoroughly tested treatment regimens, so it's not as if she wouldn't have received the same medicines elsewhere."

But one of those protocols for leukemia was written by a Doernbecher oncologist who was Leah's primary doctor. "If any adjustment had to be made along the way, there could not have been anyone better to assess my daughter's individual needs and make the absolute right decision about how to meet them," says Laurie.

Fast forward almost six years. Today, Leah is 20 and a sophomore in college. She's also cancer free. "In the end, those doctors and nurses saved my daughter's life not once, but twice," says her mom.

Heilman's testimony about the 84-year-old children's hospital and its team of 1,000 pediatric specialists speaks volumes about the importance of searching out "the dedicated pediatric hospitals that have experts who offer a depth and breadth of quality care that is not typically available at community hospitals," says renowned pediatric cancer researcher Eugenie Kleinerman, M.D., Professor and Head of the Division of Pediatrics at Children's Cancer Hospital (CCH) at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

"With children's cancer, you have one chance to get it right," says Dr. Kleinerman. "It's crucial for parents to seek out hospitals with specialized units for children's care, or freestanding institutions focused on researching and treating the leading causes of cancer in children."

So which hospitals are the best of the best when it comes to treating cancer, the leading cause of death in children? These three stand out:
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Philadelphia, Penn.
Ranked No. 1 for children's cancer treatment by U.S. News & World Report and as the No. 1 leader by Parents magazine, the 150-year-old institution is a pioneer in children's cancer care. CHOP has made headlines for its foresight in creating the world's largest repository of children's DNA, and emphasizing large-scale genetic studies. "We've created a seamless bind between clinical research and treating children's cancer," says John Maris, M.D., Chief of the Division of Oncology. "We are fiercely committed and won't stop until we are where we want to be -- and that is finding a cure for all childhood cancers."

Other features that distinguish CHOP:
  • More than 75 percent of children and adolescents with cancer can be cured, thanks to advances and innovations led by CHOP.
  • More than 40 pediatric oncologists offer care for every stage of illness, from diagnosis and treatment through follow-up for survivors.
  • Each year, CHOP physicians treat more than 500 new patients and 4,000 previously treated patients.
  • CHOP runs the world's leading center for neuroblastoma, the most common pediatric solid tumor outside of the brain.
  • The hospital is home to the nation's first pediatric survivorship program, which monitors the effects of childhood cancer and promotes health after cancer.
Children's Cancer Hospital (CCH) at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
CCH is home to one of the largest multidisciplinary pediatric cancer care programs in the nation. CCH ranks No. 1 in the number and amount of research grants for childhood cancer awarded by the National Cancer Institute. The hospital cares for approximately 1,700 children a year and has ranked No. 13 in children's cancer care, according to U.S. News & World Report's annual "America's Best Hospitals" survey.

In addition:
  • CCH experts see more types of cancer than any other children's hospital in Texas and the staff represents all aspects of pediatric cancer care, keeping the development of new therapies for childhood cancer a top research priority.
  • Physicians and scientists have developed more than five new anticancer or supportive care treatments for children and adolescents with cancer. CCH offers technologies that are not found at most children's hospitals, including proton therapy, robotic surgery, PET/CT fusion imaging, aerosol chemotherapy, unique surgeries for rare cancers and other state-of-the-art resources.
  • CCH offers extensive support and child-life programs for children, young adults and families.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.
St. Jude has ranked No. 1 for cancer care in the U.S. News survey and is ranked the No. 1 pediatric cancer care hospital in the country by Parents/NACHRI. Other distinguishing factors:
  • St. Jude has been recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases.
  • Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas, the research hospital freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world.
  • St. Jude offers treatment for all families. No family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay.
Related: Best Children's Hospitals: Top 3, Best Children's Hospitals: Cancer, Best Children's Hospitals: Digestive and Liver Disorders

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