Why Is Comprehensive Cancer Care Important?

Pictured: At Roswell Park, physicians collaborate to determine the best approach for each patient.

A hallmark of a comprehensive cancer center — comprehensive and multidisciplinary care — means that specialists from different medical disciplines collaborate to plan, evaluate and deliver cancer treatment. At Roswell Park, this means that you don’t have just one oncologist, but that you have a cancer care team of specialists — surgical, medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, and others — who work together on your personal treatment plan.

“The patient may meet some of these team members directly, but the benefit of this multidisciplinary team often occurs behind the scenes,” says Stephen Edge, MD, FACS, FASCO, Vice President of Healthcare Outcomes and Policy. “The patient sees the physicians and oncology nurses on the front lines of clinical care, but the direct and daily communication that our physicians have with each other and with our pathologists and radiologists is critical throughout the continuum of care. We don’t just read their reports, we can walk down the hall, call up a patient’s scans or laboratory results and discuss what they see on the imaging or under the microscope and what I see going on with the patient.”

In addition, your care plan incorporates the expertise from other specialists in your diagnosis, such as our physicians from Urology, Gynecology, Gastroenterology, Endocrinology and more. Only with this comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach can you be sure that all potential treatment options are evaluated and considered.

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“What a comprehensive cancer center does is bring together a critical mass of people, experts who devote their life’s work to fighting cancer,” says Dr. Edge. “It’s not about the building or the technology in the rooms. It’s the people and their collective expertise all focusing on the same problem, each from a different perspective.”

In clinical care, patients benefit from a host of other professionals in allied fields — genetics, physical therapy, nutrition, psychology, dentistry, plastic and reconstructive surgery, social work and survivorship — that play important roles in how your cancer is treated. This holistic approach to treating the whole patient, and not just the cancer, can have a significant impact on the outcome. Your care team determines the best options for you and ensures that your treatments are coordinated and sequenced in the way that offers optimal survival and quality of life.

“In the Breast Center, for example,” explains Dr. Edge, “when I have a patient who should have physical therapy after her surgery, I don’t just tell her to schedule an appointment with a therapist somewhere else in town in a couple of days. Instead, we call our Rehabilitation Medicine Department and in 10 minutes, a physical therapist is in the patient’s room reviewing the treatment, educating the patient on exercises and scheduling additional sessions if needed. That’s what happens at Roswell Park every day in many ways. That’s the kind of service and attention only a comprehensive cancer center can provide.”