The granddaddy of disease accreditation programs, this one began early in the 20th century when the American College of Surgeons decided that patients needed better protections during cancer surgery. Since then, dozens of other top cancer organizations have joined this consortium dedicated to improving care and research, and the criteria have expanded way beyond the operating room. The 36 standards range from diagnosis and rehabilitation to counseling and support. Because the program has been around for decades, some 70 to 80 percent of all cancer patients currently get their care at hospitals with this designation. Accredited hospitals must submit patient survival and other data that are measured against national standards. One weakness: Institutions underperforming their peers are educated about how to improve their numbers, but rarely lose their seal of approval.