Breast Cancer

Why Accredited Breast Centers are Important to You...
An Interview with Dr. David Winchester

What is an accredited breast center?

An accredited breast center provides comprehensive care that has met or exceeded quality standards established by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). Each accredited center has undergone a rigorous application process and on-site survey to ensure it meets the criteria for 27 standards in such categories as leadership, clinical management, research, community out-reach, professional education and quality improvement. In addition, NAPBC-accredited centers have documented that they provide 17 key components that contribute to high-quality patient care. Accredited centers voluntarily enter into an agreement to maintain their high level of clinical care, with recertification required every three years. Currently, more than 500 centers in 48 different states have achieved this accreditation.

What is the NAPBC?

The NAPBC is administered by the American College of Surgeons, the professional organization that sets the standards of care for surgical patients. The NAPBC has established standards for breast care beyond surgery, as it represents 20 specialty societies and professional organizations involved in the care of breast cancer and breast disease. The increased specialization of breast cancer care calls for a multidisciplinary approach, and the nonprofit program was established to identify and recognize breast centers that provided such care.

What services does an accredited center provide?

NAPBC-accredited centers embrace the entire spectrum of cancer care, providing women with access to a range of board-certified specialists, including breast surgeons, breast radiologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, breast pathologists, plastic/reconstructive surgeons, genetic counselors and psychosocial support professionals. Accredited centers also offer breast nurse navigators, patient education and support, palliative care programs, survivorship programs and high-risk clinics. To be accredited, a breast center must provide all of these services in one setting or provide most of the services on-site and have referral processes in place for other services.

The center where I’m being treated is not NAPBC-accredited. Should I switch?

You may be receiving excellent care where you are. The NAPBC has no way of knowing the quality of care provided at a center unless the center applies for accreditation. NAPBC accreditation only began in 2008, so some centers may still be in the process of preparing for application or awaiting an on-site survey.

How is NAPBC accreditation different from other types of accreditation?

The Commission on Cancer (CoC), also administered by the American College of Surgeons, offers accreditation to facilities that have voluntarily committed to provide the best in cancer diagnosis and treatment and are able to comply with established CoC standards. Almost all of NAPBC-accredited breast centers are also accredited by the CoC. Cancer centers can also apply for National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation. An NCI-designated cancer center is considered to be a major source for the discovery and development of more effective approaches to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The NAPBC is the first and only national accreditation program to set criteria specifically for breast diseases.

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