Unlike most other diseases, cancer treatment requires an integrated approach from several specialists, each with their own expertise. This team of specialists who would work together on your cancer, is referred to as the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT). Many global organizations have recognized the importance of a MDT for cancer treatment, as it improves coordinated care to you, as a patient. Your MDT would include specialists from the following:
Gastroenterologists: Conduct procedures such as endoscopies (colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy etc.)
Colon and rectal surgeons
Medical oncologists: Decide on the type of chemotherapy to be administered
Radiation oncologists: Specialists trained in administering radiotherapy
Radiologists: Conduct radiological diagnostic procedures such as ultrasounds, CT, MRI etc.
Pathologists: Conduct histopathological evaluations of the tumour sample or biopsy sample to offer details on the type of tumour
Palliative Care specialists
Nutritionists: To customise diets post-surgery
Stoma care specialists: To help care for patients post ileostomy or colostomy
Other specialists that are less often called upon may include medical geneticists (for genetic profiling of the tumour), general surgery, gynaecologic surgery or urologic surgery (in case of involvement of other organs).
Some hospitals that take an organ-based approach to cancer, have a separate department for Gastrointestinal Cancers. These teams comprise of specialists who have dedicated training in cancers of the digestive system.
A tumor board is a meeting where a Multi-Disciplinary Team discusses cancer cases and share knowledge. The board’s goal is to determine the best possible cancer treatment and care plan for an individual patient. Having fresh perspectives from other doctors makes it much easier to come up with that plan.
In some of the best cancer hospitals in India, all cancer cases are discussed at the Tumor Board, while in other hospitals the Tumor Board focuses on cases where a doctor seeks inputs from other specialists on the patient's case. It’s OK to ask your doctor if or why your case was discussed at a tumor board. Or if it wasn’t, why not? In some cases, a patient’s treatment plan is very straightforward using standard treatment guidelines, and some of the best cancer doctors in India may feel a tumor board review isn’t needed. However, you can request that one be done.
These are offline or online groups that connect patients suffering from cancer. Do find out about a support group around you. The hospital where you are being treated may have a support group that you could join.
Sources: Mayo Clinic.