What is a Multidisciplinary Team?
Those diagnosed with breast cancer understand the complexity of the disease and know that one doctor cannot cover all bases when it comes to high-quality and individualised care. A multidisciplinary team is a group of healthcare professionals who specialise in different areas of care, collaborate and coordinate with patients, and regularly meet and work together to ensure their patients achieve the best possible outcome.
As we learn more about the different types of breast cancer and recognise there cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to treating this disease, we can see why having a solid multidisciplinary team is important for each patient.
Who is part of the Multidisciplinary Team?
Depending on your type of breast cancer, treatment plan, and how you respond to treatment, a standard care team can include:
- Breast care nurse - this nurse is assigned to a patient once diagnosed with breast cancer. She will provide information and additional personalised support throughout the entire process.
Some patients may not be offered a breast care nurse straight away. If this is the case for you, ask your treatment team to appoint one for you as soon as possible.
- Breast surgeon & reconstructive surgeon - surgery is typically the first stage of treatment for someone diagnosed with breast cancer, which is why a breast surgeon may be your first point of contact before an oncologist. Surgery can involve a lumpectomy, partial or total mastectomy and lymph node removal, which may be followed immediately by reconstruction
- Medical oncologist - specialises in cancer drug therapies; chemotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy and immunotherapy.
- Chemotherapy nurse - specialises in administrating chemotherapy drugs and provides support throughout treatment.
- Clinical oncologist - uses both drug therapy and radiotherapy to treat disease.
- Radiation therapist - if your treatment plan requires radiotherapy, you will usually see this specialist after you finish the course of chemotherapy. The number of radiotherapy sessions required is based on each patient.
- Pathologist - collects and examines tissues and blood samples.
- Radiographer - specialises in performing mammograms, x-rays, and a variety of other necessary scans.
Additional team members
Not all patients will require every health care practitioner to be part of their team; depending on your diagnosis and current treatment plan, your care team may also include:
- Genetic counsellor - a specialist that may be recommended for you if you have a strong history of breast cancer in your family or test positive for the BRCA gene mutation.
- Fertility specialist - provides advice and support about fertility preservation and possible pregnancy before, during, and after treatment.
- Exercise physiologist - specialises in prescribing exercise plans to improve a patient’s quality of life, strength, overall health, and energy levels.
- Nutritionist/Dietician - provide advice regarding nutrition during and post-treatment, which can help to alleviate discomfort with treatment side effects.
- Lymphoedema practitioner/ Physiotherapist - educates patients about the prevention and management of lymphoedema and may offer treatment.
- Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or Counsellor - these practitioners specialise in helping patients manage emotional responses to diagnosis and treatment.
- Hair loss advisor - provides support during and after treatment regarding hair loss, i.e. cold-capping or wig fittings.
What are the benefits of having a Multidisciplinary Team?
Every breast cancer patient has different needs, and every diagnosis requires personalised care. Working with a team of specialists rather than just one primary doctor ensures you receive the most comprehensive, patient-centred care and support possible throughout your journey.
The multidisciplinary team can ‘see the big picture’ and will work together to ensure that treatment plans and next steps are organised and everything is on track, taking the pressure off you to remember what you’re doing or where you’re going.
What is my role within the team?
As a patient, you will not attend any multidisciplinary meetings with the healthcare professionals, but you will receive important information discussed. Any recommendations for treatment or further care during these meetings will directly influence the decision-making process between yourself and your lead clinician.
Your role will solely be to voice any concerns regarding treatment and care and ask questions when unsure about certain decisions. Patient satisfaction and achieving the most favourable outcome is the #1 goal while working with a MDT. Do not be afraid to advocate for yourself and request second opinions if you need to do so.
Remember, each patient’s team may look different – it’s best to speak directly with your doctor to find the best options and support for you.
This content is brought to you in partnership with MSD and developed independently by the team at Pink Hope in consultation with medical experts