I went to M. D. Anderson for my third opinion and eventually to have my Da Vinci surgery done in August 2008. I have so many thoughts about MDA, but for this post I will generally try to keep my personal story out of it and try to give a broader picture. One as objective as I can make it!
MDA has been the place to go for cancer treatment in Houston for many decades. Here in Houston most people immediately think of MDA if they or a loved one gets cancer. Until recently, to get in you had to know someone with connections there or have a particularly interesting case - MDA treats not only people from Texas and the surrounding areas of the United States but also the wealthy and powerful from all over the world.
But things are changing, and for the last several months we have been hearing and seeing TV and radio advertisements for MDA saying that if you have been diagnosed with cancer, appointments are now available (including a special commercial about their proton beam center for PC). That is an amazing development. But I am getting ahead of myself.
MDA has a very well-staffed and expert fundraising and PR department. It is tightly tied in with all the movers and shakers in Houston, and there is still a social and professional taboo about saying anything about MDA that even smacks of criticism.
There is no doubt that MDA is staffed with some of the best cancer specialists in the world [I was happy with Dr. John Davis there for robotic PC surgery, by the way]. But recently some people - including me - have been starting to speak more freely about our experiences there.
During the past decade or so, many feel that MDA has gotten complacent. Many people who work there - not all, by any means - have developed the attitude of "I am with MDA - you are extremely fortunate that I am talking with you. So ... you will show up on time, you will wait for many hours, you will not ask when you will be seen, you will not leave to get something to eat, you will do what I tell you to do when I tell you to do it, and you will remain cheerful and very grateful towards me at all times."
Other hospitals in town are picking up on this. They have implemented programs to improve the personal experience of patients at their hospitals, and those programs are really starting to show results. They sense that with an aging population which will get cancer in increasing numbers, there is a lot of money at stake here and that MDA is ripe for the picking. As I said earlier, MDA is starting to fight back with a big media blitz - something that would have been unthinkable until very recently.
The Memorial Hermann Hospital Group in particular is investing a lot of money in facilities, doctors, and staff to make a run at MDA. But other hospitals, including St. Luke's and Methodist, have had good cancer programs for a while [an aside: Dr. Brian Miles at Methodist has a good reputation for robotic surgery for PC; he was going to do my surgery until insurance problems intervened]. It will be fascinating to watch this titanic struggle for medical dollars between a world-renowned but perhaps too complacent MDA and very hungry competitors who see a real business opportunity here.
Generally, I would say that if you have an early stage of one of the more "common" cancers (prostate, breast, colon, lung, etc.) and you want to be treated in Houston, I would look at one of the other hospitals to see if you can get the same quality levels as MDA but with a better overall patient experience. [As always when dealing with cancer or any other serious illness, due diligence is critical.] If you have an advanced stage of any cancer, or a case of a more unusual or highly aggressive cancer (tongue, anal, pancreatic, etc.), I think you are still best served at MDA. Just resign yourself to the arrogance and foolishness and resolve to keep your eye on the ultimate goal of survival.
I'll write more if people are interested or have specific questions.
Obviously, all of the above is just my personal opinion; I may be wrong about any or all of it!