How the Cancer Care Team is Like a Symphony Orchestra

Often, patients with cancer will come into contact with only a handful of members of their care team: a primary care physician or oncologist, perhaps a nurse or two. But as Dr. Phillip J. Koo explained, it helps to view the cancer care team – including those who a patient may never see – with a wider lens.

Often, patients with cancer will come into contact with only a handful of members of their care team: a primary care physician or oncologist, perhaps a nurse or two. But as Dr. Phillip J. Koo explained, it helps to view the cancer care team – including those who a patient may never see – with a wider lens.

In a recent interview with CURE®, Koo, the chief of diagnostic imaging at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Phoenix, suggested thinking of the larger team of doctors and even researchers as an orchestra, working together to treat patients.

Additionally, Koo went on to note, patients can work with that larger team to stay up to date on the evolving nature of cancer research by keeping an open line of communication with their doctors.

Transcription:

CURE®: How is cancer care like an orchestra?

Koo: I think sometimes we look at cancer care with too narrow of a lens. We think, oh, you know, I just need one person and they're the one who treats my cancer. In reality, there's so many people. There are 30, 40, 50 people that are critical parts of the team that can really make a difference in your cancer care journey.

And that's why I think a lot of times we focus sometimes on a trio of providers – medical oncologist, surgical oncologist and radiation oncologist – but I think what we're recognizing it really is a symphony orchestra that's needed to really coordinate your care, integrate your care and also stay up on the latest developments because it's changing so rapidly.

And the beauty of a lot of what we're able to do in our center, and a lot of centers able to do, is really teach each other. And there's nothing wrong in saying that we don't know everything. Even myself, who I spent a lot of my career sort of focusing on prostate cancer, I learn something new every day. And it's actually very exciting to listen to other people speak and talk. And oftentimes, there's no black or white answer as well. And that's where education and learning is even more important, because you need to tease out those different elements that help us make a better educated decision in the end in partnership with our patients.

The field of cancer research is always evolving. How can patients work with their care team to stay informed?

If it's confusing for me at times, it's going to be confusing for patients as well. There's no doubt about it. And it's really hard to come up with a great solution for this, you know. You can read things that are on the internet, or things that were published a year or two years ago. And today, some of that is going to be out of date. And it's hard to sort of reconcile that because, you know, one year ago isn't too long. But it's important to sort of continue having that dialogue, and I think, you know, encouraging that dialogue is a good thing.

Second opinions are good things too. You know, this is something that I stress, whenever someone starts on this journey of cancer, whatever it might be, you only have one chance to get it right up front. And with that, I think having multiple people sort of give their teams give (their) input and recommendation is a good thing. It helps the patient and their family make a better-informed decision with no regrets because, again, it's always changing. And I would like to say that we're always up to date on everything, but we're not.

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