Multidisciplinary Care for Mesothelioma

Multidisciplinary care unites doctors from different disciplines to provide cancer patients with better treatment, better outcomes, fewer adverse events, shorter hospital stays and higher quality of life.

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Multidisciplinary health care is an all-inclusive approach to managing patient health. It takes a more holistic approach to patient care that aims to treat the whole body and not just a single disease.

This type of care is made possible when doctors from different areas of medicine hold regular meetings to discuss their patients’ care.  The hospitals and cancer centers that encourage multidisciplinary team meetings tend to offer better overall care to people with cancer.

These team meetings have a positive impact on clinical decision-making because multiple specialists weigh in on the benefits and risks of treatment options. No one doctor can be expected to know everything. The multidisciplinary approach allows doctors to share their expertise and collaborate in ways that translate into better quality care for patients.

What Are the Proven Benefits of a Multidisciplinary Approach?

Multidisciplinary care in hospital settings improves patient safety, survival and quality of life. Research reports the following benefits:

  • Reduced adverse events
  • Improved outcomes
  • Decreased length of hospital stays
  • Improved patient safety and satisfaction
  • Increased quality of life

A handful of small studies showed longer survival times for certain cancers, such as lung, ovarian and breast cancer, when multidisciplinary care was used.

What Is Multidisciplinary Cancer Care?

Modern cancer care uses more than one therapy to treat cancer because one treatment modality is rarely enough to control cancer. Surgery is associated with the longest survival times. Chemotherapy is the most common treatment because not everyone qualifies for surgery. Radiation therapy can improve survival times for many cancers, especially when combined with surgery.

The term “multimodal therapy” is used when more than one treatment is combined to fight cancer. While clinical studies show the best results can only be achieved with a multimodal approach, the combination of treatments isn’t without risk.

One type of cancer treatment alone has the potential to harm. When two or more therapies are combined, the risk of harm increases. These aggressive treatments require doctors to keep a close watch over their patients. When the doctors administering these treatments meet to discuss how a patient is responding, they can collaborate to identify warning signs and maintain patient safety.

A multidisciplinary health care team meets regularly to:

  • Discuss each patient’s case individually
  • Evaluate anti-cancer treatment options
  • Create multidisciplinary management plans for treatment
  • Collaborate on supportive care
  • Consider new therapies that may benefit a patient
  • Assess which clinical trials may help a particular patient

Multidisciplinary meetings to discuss care for mesothelioma patients are generally held once a week for 30 minutes to an hour. Each mesothelioma case is carefully reviewed and treatment plans are modified as necessary to optimize patient care.

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What Types of Doctors Comprise a Multidisciplinary Care Team?

A range of medical specialties is required to treat mesothelioma with a multidisciplinary approach.

An oncologist, pulmonologist, radiologist, histopathologist, thoracic surgeon and specialized nurse are the most common members of a mesothelioma multidisciplinary team. A variety of other doctors, such as hematologists or palliative care specialists, may sit in on the meetings.

  • Surgeons

    Surgeons give mesothelioma patients the greatest chance of long-term survival. Thoracic surgeons operate on pleural mesothelioma patients and general surgeons specializing in peritoneal malignancy operate on peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Surgeons can answer any questions you have about the risks and benefits of mesothelioma surgery.

  • Medical Oncologists

    Medical oncologists oversee chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatment plans. These doctors often serve as the primary oncologist for mesothelioma patients.

  • Clinical Oncologists

    Clinical oncologists or thoracic radiologists administer radiation therapy. Not everyone with mesothelioma receives radiation therapy, but some specialty centers report longer mesothelioma survival with IMRT radiation.

  • Radiologists

    Radiologists administer and interpret imaging scans such as X-rays, CT scans and PET scans. These imaging scans are used to diagnose mesothelioma and monitor the cancer.

  • Pathologists

    Pathologists examine biopsy samples under a microscope to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis. They sit in on meetings when a mesothelioma diagnosis is suspected, but not yet confirmed.

  • Hematologists

    Hematologists keep a close watch on your blood cell counts to make sure your immune system is functioning well. They will let your oncologist know if your cell counts are too low to continue treatment. When you’re feeling fatigued, ask your hematologist if you blood cell counts may be responsible.

  • Pulmonologists

    Pulmonologists closely examine the lung health of people with pleural mesothelioma. They’ll check your lung function and pulmonary symptoms. They may perform bedside drainage of pleural fluid, called a thoracentesis, to relieve chest pain and difficulty breathing.

  • Gastroenterologists

    Gastroenterologists keep an eye on gut health for people with peritoneal mesothelioma.

  • Palliative Care Specialists

    Palliative care specialists help manage cancer symptoms and side effects of treatment. They prescribe medications and recommend therapies to improve quality of life such as occupational therapy. Cancer patients tend to live longer when they meet with a palliative care specialist soon after diagnosis.

  • Nursing Specialists

    Nursing specialists include nurse practitioners who assist pulmonologists, gastroenterologists, oncologists and other doctors with more advanced care. Other health professionals who may participate in teams meetings include:

    • Oncology dietitians
    • Occupational therapists
    • Physical therapists
    • Mental health therapists
    • Social workers
    A patient’s general practitioner (GP) may communicate with the multidisciplinary team as well. Lab reports, checkups and other medical notes are often shared between a mesothelioma patient’s GP and the multidisciplinary group.

Learn more about the types of mesothelioma doctors

Where Can I Find Multidisciplinary Care for Mesothelioma?

Not every hospital or cancer center offers a multidisciplinary approach in health care. Additionally, few centers specialize in mesothelioma treatment. Finding a cancer center that treats mesothelioma with a multidisciplinary approach isn’t easy.

The following mesothelioma cancer centers are renowned for their cutting-edge treatment and multidisciplinary approach to cancer care.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston is home to the International Mesothelioma Program, which is the largest of its kind in the world. The program treats nearly 200 mesothelioma cases a year and is home to some of America’s leading mesothelioma surgeons, oncologists and radiologists.

Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida employs a diverse team of specialists to treat pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. The multidisciplinary mesothelioma team has surgeons and oncologists in addition to a hematologist, immunologist and interventional radiologist.

University of Chicago Medicine in Chicago is one of the world’s leading facilities for the advancement of mesothelioma treatment. The most effective chemotherapy treatment plan for mesothelioma was discovered here in 2002.

Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston is a leader in mesothelioma research thanks to investments in innovative treatment and recruiting top mesothelioma specialists. For example, Dr. David Sugarbaker relocated from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he founded the International Mesothelioma Program, to Baylor College of Medicine to lead the Lung Institute.

Seeking health care from a mesothelioma cancer center that offers multidisciplinary care is worth the effort because it just might help you live longer. When a team of experts oversees your cancer care, you are less likely to experience adverse health events and more likely to experience improved outcomes from treatment.

Multidisciplinary care provides the comprehensive care people with mesothelioma need to not only maintain quality of life, but also extend life.

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Joining the team in February 2008 as a writer and editor, Michelle Whitmer has translated medical jargon into patient-friendly information at Asbestos.com for more than eight years. Michelle is a registered yoga teacher, a member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine, and was quoted by The New York Times on the risks of asbestos exposure. If you have a story idea for Michelle, please email her at michelle@asbestos.com.

  1. Epstein, N.E. (2014). Multidisciplinary in-hospital teams improve patient outcomes: A review. Surg Neurol Int, 5(Suppl 7):S295-S303. doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.139612. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4173201/
  2. Bibby, A.C., Williams, K., Smith, S., Bhatt, N., & Maskell, N.A. (2016). What is the role of a specialist regional mesothelioma multidisciplinary team meeting? A service evaluation of one tertiary referral centre in the UK. Retrieved from http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/9/e012092.full
  3. Terra, R.M., Teixeira, L.R., Beyruti, R., Takagaki, T.Y., Vargas, F.S., & Jatene, F.B. (2008). Malignant pleural mesothelioma: Multidisciplinary experience in a public tertiary hospital. J Bras Pneumol, 34(1):13-20. Rerieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18278371
  4. Oxford University Hospitals. (2016). Oxford Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Multi-Disciplinary Team. Retrieved from http://www.ouh.nhs.uk/patient-guide/leaflets/files/4022PlungmdtA5.pdf
  5. Ceresoli, G.L., Gridelli, C., & Santoro, A. (2007). Multidisciplinary treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. The Oncologist, 12(7):850-863. Retrieved from http://theoncologist.alphamedpress.org/content/12/7/850.full

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