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Multidisciplinary Cancer Care


Submitted by Mid-Illinois Hematology & Oncology LTD 

Multidisciplinary teams [MDTs] are a vital component of delivering quality health care to cancer patients. MDTs consist of experienced and knowledgeable health care providers who meet regularly to discuss the treatment planning of cancer patients. Members of an oncology MDT represent all aspects of cancer care and usually include medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, general physicians, oncology nurses, dieticians, physical therapists, social workers, and spiritual advisors among others.

Meetings that include MDTs to discuss an optimal treatment strategy for cancer patients are often called tumor board conferences (TBCs). These conferences have become an international standard and are crucial in making complex, individualized treatment decisions for cancer patients. Various treatment options are discussed in these meetings including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, other supportive treatments, and palliative therapy. All relevant areas of patient care are considered to ensure the best possible outcomes for any given individual.

There is growing evidence that patients treated by MDTs have better clinical outcomes than those patients treated without a coordinated approach. Such a collaborative effort often improves the quality of clinical decisions leading to better results. A multidisciplinary approach to patient care also improves communication between physicians and creates more efficient treatment planning. Several studies have also shown that this process increases both patient and provider satisfaction. Patients also have greater confidence in their treatment knowing that several providers have come together in planning the best strategy to fight their disease.

MDTs provide an opportunity for sharing of knowledge and experience between various health care providers. They build leadership skills in those taking part in these meetings. It is easier for treatment guidelines to be implemented as there is a unified perception of the disease process, it’s diagnosis, and treatment. Medical errors are less likely to occur in view of this frequent interaction between physicians. Tumor board conferences are often held in a formal, academic environment which is conducive to making evidence based decisions of the highest quality.

Building effective teams may be a challenge, as attendance at MDT meetings can be poor. A significant amount of time is spent by healthcare providers in these meetings, and preparation for these meetings can be extremely time consuming. A study found that for every hour of an MDT meeting, on average, radiologists spent two hours and pathologists spent on average 2.4 hours in preparation. Although it could be argued that this time could be better spent elsewhere — for example, in direct patient care — there is enough evidence to suggest that MDTs positively impact quality of decision making and thereby, patient outcomes.

Also, there may be differences between members of the team regarding a patient’s management, leading to challenges in reaching a consensus. However, an overriding commitment to patient care will ultimately overcome these problems.

MDT meetings have become critical in ensuring a high quality of care for cancer patients. It is important that patients and their families are aware of MDTs and actively seek a multidisciplinary approach in the management of their cancer. This process improves clinical outcomes and, for the most part, patient and provider satisfaction. Although they require extra effort and significant time commitment from healthcare providers, it is the most efficient and effective way of delivering the highest quality of cancer care.

For more information on any type of cancer, you may contact Mid-Illinois Hematology & Oncology Associates, Ltd. 309-452-9701 or online at They are an independent QOPI Certified practice located inside the Community Cancer Center at 407 E. Vernon Avenue in Normal.