Develop a Treatment Team

A Multidisciplinary Approach Matters

Cancer that has spread from the original point of origin (i.e. breast cancer, colorectal cancer) to another part of the body is known by several terms: malignant, cancer that has spread, secondary, metastatic, advanced, or stage 4 cancer.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with cancer that has spread, you want to make sure your doctor has a consulting team to determine the most effective treatment plan for you.

A Multidisciplinary Cancer Care Team

Many multidisciplinary treatment teams will meet about your case at a tumor board. This allows different specialists to work together in determining the best treatment plan for your situation.

For example, certain patients may benefit from receiving chemotherapy before surgery. Other patients may benefit from chemotherapy or radiation after surgery.

Most patients who have advanced cancer receive multiple types of treatment. This is especially true for patients with advanced cancer, which sometimes requires many different modes of therapy.

A multidisciplinary cancer treatment team may include the following:

Surgical oncologist – a surgical oncologist removes the tumor and nearby tissue during surgery. He or she also performs certain types of biopsies to help diagnose cancer and surgery to remove operable tumors.

Medical oncologist – a medical oncologist treats cancer using chemotherapy or other medications, such as targeted therapy or immunotherapy. The medical oncologist usually takes the team lead.

Radiation oncologist – a radiation oncologist treats cancer using radiation therapy.

Interventional radiologist – interventional oncologists integrate minimally invasive treatments with the goal of minimizing tumor burden.

Oncology Nurse – is always a RN with Chemo certification. The oncology nurse is truly the patient’s care planner, the driver of his or her overall care, and helps coordinate the various members of the health care team.

Social Worker – counsels those affected by cancer, providing emotional support and helping to access practical assistance.

Benefits to Multidisciplinary Cancer Care

Patients who receive multidisciplinary cancer care benefit from:

• Teamwork: When physicians with different specialties work in one place together, they can easily communicate and discuss important information about your tumors.

• Convenience: Patients can meet with more than one expert in a single visit, because all of the specialists are in the same place.

• Personalized care plans: A multidisciplinary treatment team can discuss and determine the best treatment plan for your cancer situation.

A patient-centered multidisciplinary team approach will help you navigate to the care you need, create goals together, provide timely and relevant information, support the patient and family, involve the patient in decision making, and align evidence-based decision making. If your center or hospital doesn’t have a multidisciplinary treatment team, though not as efficient, it is possible to reach out and seek opinions from each separate medical discipline.