Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Cancer Centres

What is a cancer centre?

A cancer centre is a hospital in which staff with specialist expertise in cancer / specific types of cancer are concentrated.

This ensures a multidisplinary approach, an appropriate workload and the availability of necessary supports to achieve the best practice.

Cancer centres work closely with other hospitals and community services (like GPs, pharmacies and cancer survivorship support services) to ensure appropriate aspects of patient care are delivered as close to home as possible.

What were the criteria for selecting the cancer centres?

The designation of cancer centres was based on national policy set out in the National Cancer Strategy 2006.  Successful cancer centre models internationally were examined as part of the process of designating the eight cancer centres in Ireland. Each of the designated centres were required to meet the following criteria:

  • Each Specialist Cancer Centre must serve a population of at least 500,000
  • Rare and complex cancers should be treated by a subset of the eight cancer centres, consistent with evidence based practice and likely population incidence
  • Centres are designated for the treatment of rare and complex cancers based on an analysis of existing patterns of care and pre existing resources within the limitations of these criteria
  • Cancer Centres must be well supported by general medical and surgical infrastructure (including all general consultation services, pathology, lab-medicine and radiology/imaging as well as support services eg respiratory, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, rehabilitation, nutrition, palliative care)
  • Cancer Centres require availability of critical surgical subspecialty services to support cancer control activity
  • Cancer Centres require availability of medical oncology/systematic therapy support – consultation, therapy, curative and palliative therapies, clinical trials, etc.
  • Host hospitals must have the capacity to sustain a multi-disciplinary team environment, engaging health professionals across common clinical services and academic endeavours
  • Cancer centres require host hospitals with an academic environment – availability of university and/or technical education facilities for education and specialty training for health professions
  • Cancer centres require a research environment within the national network – availability of university facilities, research institutions and research infrastructure

Why were cancer services moved? Are cancer services no longer available in other hospitals?

For certain cancer tests and treatments, the results for patients are best if the hospital and team are doing this work on a regular basis.  Providing these services in a cancer centre ensures that patients have the best chance of surviving cancer.

A number of other hospitals have linkages with cancer centres and continue to provide important cancer services, such as systemic anti-cancer therapy (e.g. immunotherapy, chemotherapy), closer to the patient’s home. Patient support services, palliative care, certain follow-up tests and important non-cancer treatment continue to be provided in hospitals that are not cancer centres.

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Does each cancer centre deal with every type of cancer?

No. Some cancers occur less commonly than others. The services and expertise for these are concentrated in a smaller number of cancer centres.

What about patients who live far away from a cancer centre?

There are some supports available to people who need to access cancer care far from their home.  For example, the Travel2Care scheme is administered by the Irish Cancer Society.  It can help patients travelling over 50km one way to a designated centre meet some of the travelling costs for tests or treatment. 

Patients who have been given an appointment in a cancer centre can access the fund through their healthcare team or by contacting the Irish Cancer Society directly. Information is available from the Irish Cancer Society on 01 231 6643 / 01 231 0522 or email: 

Remember, certain cancer services will still be available closer to home.