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 organisations 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:
Medical Oncologist: Specialist that decides the optimum course and agent for chemotherapy
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: A surgeon specialised in operating on head and neck cancers.
Otorhinolaryngology (ENT)/Head and Neck Surgeon: A surgeon that treats all conditions of the ear, nose and throat.
Plastic Surgeon: A surgeon that specialises in reconstruction surgery.
Radiologist: A specialist who interprets MRI, X-rays and CT scans.
Pathologist: A specialist who studies tissues under the microscope and provides insights regarding cancer cells that help decide treatment.
Radiation Oncologist: A specialist that decides the optimum course and agent for radiotherapy.
Palliative care specialist: Helps patients deal with the physical and psychological symptoms involved with the diagnosis and management of oral cancer.
Some of the best hospitals for cancer treatment in India that take an organ-based approach to cancer, have a separate department for Head and Neck cancers. These teams comprise of specialists who have dedicated training in cancers occurring in the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, sinuses, or salivary glands.
A tumor board is a meeting where your Multi-Disciplinary Team discusses cancer cases and shares 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 cancer specialist hospital, 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