Teaming Up On Breast Cancer

When it comes to tackling breast cancer, two — or three, or five — team members are better than one.

Breast cancer is a complex disease, and diagnostic and treatment options are varied. Research validates the benefits of having a multidisciplinary team of specialists from different backgrounds and training come together to evaluate you and make treatment recommendation.

There are several reasons why teamwork is effective for treating breast cancer:

Everyone brings something different to the table.

Medicine changes rapidly, so while a doctor may stay current with technology and advancements in her field of specialty, she may not know about changes in a different but related field. When doctors and clinicians from various disciplines collaborate on a patient’s diagnosis and potential treatments, the patient’s care plan is strengthened.

Call for an Appointment
(800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273)

A care coordinator holds the team together.

Having your cancer screening at one hospital, consulting with a doctor at another and having surgery at a third cancer center can create a disjointed approach to your care. When you choose to be treated at a comprehensive cancer center, you will be assigned a care coordinator or breast health specialist who will organize and keep team members up-to-date on your treatment plan.

A benefit of having treatment at a comprehensive cancer center such as USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center is that upon your diagnosis, you will be immediately surrounded by a multidisciplinary care team of oncologists, nurses, radiologists and psychologists, who work together to guide you through to recovery. You have a right to discuss your health, emotions and post-care in detail, and feeling like an integral part of your care team will build your confidence to move forward.

“The days when a single doctor practicing independently can care for cancer are over,” said Jorge J. Nieva, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “Cancer care requires a team. Oncologists, surgeons, pharmacists, pathologists, radiologists, pulmonologists, nurses, dieticians, social workers, care navigators and rehabilitative specialists are all necessary to provide the kind of care that makes for the best patient outcomes.”

Specialists share knowledge and form a consensus for treatment.

The same study that recognizes the important of a care coordinator also suggests that a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care results in less invasive surgery and timelier treatment.

“Over 30 years ago, a breast cancer diagnosis meant a massive, disfiguring, surgery, but today it is possible to treat many cancers with less invasive, breast-conserving procedures that have a much smaller impact on a patient’s life,” said Maria Nelson, MD, assistant professor of clinical surgery at Keck School of Medicine of USC and a breast surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC.

Excellence breeds excellence.

Being on a competitive team of exceptional athletes increases an individual player’s performance. The same goes with being part of a team of medical experts: each member strives to achieve higher degrees of excellence.

Though it has not been widely studied, early reports have found that in addition to better patient care, a multidisciplinary approach is associated with better breast cancer survival.