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What Is A “Tumor Board”?

What Is A “Tumor Board”?

How multidisciplinary care conferences engineer better outcomes for cancer patients

Cancer is a complex disease. In fact, it’s not one disease at all, but many different diseases all grouped under one umbrella term. As such, treating cancer is equally complex, if not more so. And while there are best practices and standard approaches, every patient is different and every cancer is different.

“The days of Marcus Welby are long gone, and cancer care has become very complex,” says Dr. Richard Brown, oncologist and Chief Medical Director at the Brian D.Dr. Richard Brown, oncologist and Chief Medical Director at the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute Jellison Cancer Institute. “You're dealing with lots of people—medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, GI doctors, pulmonary doctors, navigators, nutritionists, speech therapists, genetic counselors and more—and they all need to be on the same page when it comes to treating the patient.”

To achieve this, oncology programs organize collaborative care meetings, where physicians and healthcare professionals from different disciplines come together to coordinate patient care.

At Sarasota Memorial’s Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute, these collaborative care meetings are called Multidisciplinary Care Conferences, or, in oncology vernacular, Tumor Boards.

So What Is A “Tumor Board”?

Put quite simply, a multidisciplinary care conference is a great gathering of physicians, surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation therapists, and all of the other healthcare professionals involved in cancer treatment, where doctors can present difficult or complex cases for group discussion and input. At the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute, this can mean having as many as 30 experts in varying fields all contributing to determining the very best care for that patient.

“We have everyone in the room,” says Dr. Brown. “We have pathology, radiology, surgery, and all the supportive care people from genetic counseling to navigation, so that we all have a clear understanding of the medical problems the patient is facing. And then you start a discussion.”

While preserving anonymity for the patient, their doctor will present the patient’s case to the room, sharing all relevant information—charts, notes, CAT scans, MRIs, etc.—for attendees to examine for themselves. And for anything from the next few minutes to the next hour, the room is devoted to determining the best path forward. Everyone gets a chance to weigh in, from the surgeon to the navigator.

“You’re not just getting a second opinion,” Dr. Brown says. “You’re getting 30 opinions on what is the best way to treat that individual patient.”

By ensuring that every relevant department and specialty is actively involved with the patient’s care, no possible avenue of treatment is overlooked, including the latest clinical trials. Then, as one, the conference agrees on a course of action.

“And when you get 30 people agreeing,” Dr. Brown says, "it's a powerful thing.”

Hear more from Dr. Brown about the importance and advantage of multidisciplinary cancer care in his recent appearance on SMH HealthCasts.

Multidisciplinary Cancer Care for Patients | HealthCasts Season 6, Episode 6 from SMHCS on Vimeo.

Learn MoreSMH Copywriter, Phil Lederer

To learn more about cancer treatment services and best practices at the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute of Sarasota Memorial, click here.

Written by Sarasota Memorial copywriter Philip Lederer, MA, who crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. SMH’s in-house wordsmith, Lederer earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, KY.

Posted: Mar 26, 2024,
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