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:
Gastroenterologist: Specialist dealing with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Performs the endoscopic procedures.
Surgeon or surgical oncologist: Specialist in operating on various types of cancer
Medical oncologist: Specialist who decides the optimum schedule and agent for chemotherapy.
Radiation oncologist: Specialist in administering radiation therapy to treat cancer.
Pathologist: Examines biopsies and other samples under the microscope.
Radiologist: Specializes in using imaging tests to diagnose diseases such as gastric cancer.
Genetic Specialist: A clinician/scientist who determines the genetic make-up of a tumour.
Physiotherapist: Physical therapists provide support for patients, especially to alleviate the effects of some of the treatments for cancer.
Counsellor: Psychologist by training that offers counselling to patients.
Dietitian: Offers personalized support to cancer patients.
Palliative care specialists: These professionals help patients and families deal with the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment such as anxiety and depression as well as keep the patient comfortable especially in incurable cases.
Some of the best cancer hospitals in India 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 hospitals, 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 the doctor 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 for cancer where you are being treated may have a support group that you could join.
Sources: Mayo Clinic; Cancer.Net