Every cancer case or medical decision may not require a multidisciplinary team, but here are some signs that may help you decide.
There has been a lot of emphasis on the multidisciplinary approach to cancer care, and it certainly makes sense, because surgery, radiation, and medication are all part of cancer care and are administered by different specialists with different areas of expertise. Add in proper imaging and pathology and it is clear that many disciplines are necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment. But isn’t this true of all aspects of medicine? After all, don’t doctors often order several tests that are interpreted by someone else, or refer their patient to specialists for consultations?
So, when should you, as a patient, ask for a multidisciplinary approach? Every cancer case or every decision may not require a multidisciplinary team. The types of issues that should set off a signal for shared decision-making include the following:
Often, a multidisciplinary evaluation may occur behind the scenes, such as a discussion at a tumor board, or just via phone calls and hallway conversations. In other cases, the team might actually see the patient together. Also, the team may only need to assemble and confer at the beginning of treatment or at the time of an important milestone, such as if the cancer progresses or when one phase of treatment is complete. Of course, it is difficult for the patient to know when multidisciplinary input is needed, but simply knowing its value should empower them to at least ask several questions, including the ones below:
If you are not getting straight answers to these questions, or just to the direct and basic question as to whether a multidisciplinary approach is needed, then it may be time to seek a second opinion at a larger center that features a full multidisciplinary team.