Multidisciplinary Team Care for Lung Cancer Patients

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Treating lung cancer is a team effort. It is most effective when your care and treatment plan is discussed and analyzed by knowledgeable healthcare professionals. These professionals form a group that's referred to as a lung cancer multidisciplinary team (MDT).

You will most likely work with an MDT rather than just one healthcare provider to treat cancers that begin in the lungs. The two most common types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.

This article will discuss the benefits of having a multidisciplinary team. It will also detail the type of care you can expect from your MDT and how to find a team if you don't already have one.

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Multidisciplinary Team Members for Lung Cancer

A variety of treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy, are used to battle lung cancer. Critical care, psychological care, and palliative care may also be needed. A lung cancer multidisciplinary team is comprised of healthcare professionals who specialize in these disciplines.

MDTs meet on a regular basis to make joint treatment decisions regarding treatment and care for people being treated for lung cancer.   

The members of your team will be determined by a variety of factors, including the type and stage of lung cancer you have. Members may include:

  • Oncologist: Doctor who specializes in cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • Radiation oncologist: Doctor who specializes in treating cancer with radiation therapy
  • Pulmonologist: Doctor who specializes in the respiratory system
  • Thoracic surgeon: Surgeon who specializes in the lungs and chest
  • Pathologist: Doctor who studies tissues and other bodily samples in a laboratory to diagnose and guide treatment of disease
  • Palliative care team: Healthcare professionals who specialize in symptom management and control  
  • Lung cancer nurse specialist: Nurse who provides comprehensive support and guidance for lung cancer patients and their caregivers
  • Psychologist: Mental health professional who can provide support for dealing with conditions like anxiety and depression
  • Cancer care coordinator: Handles all aspects of your care

Benefits of Multidisciplinary Team Care

Working with an MDT can streamline your care and eliminate redundant tests. Observational studies indicate that using an MDT to coordinate lung cancer diagnosis and treatment produces the following positive effects on patient care:

  • Increases adherence to clinical practice guidelines (the professional recommendations that ensure appropriate treatment)
  • Significantly reduces the amount of time from diagnosis to treatment
  • May increase quality of life and improve survival rates

Currently, the use of MDTs for the diagnostic process and treatment of lung cancer is recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a nonprofit alliance of 32 U.S. cancer treatment centers.

What to Expect

At an MDT meeting, the healthcare professional most familiar with you will present information about the type and stage of cancer you have. Information about your overall health, physical condition, and other needs will be included.

After reviewing all aspects of your case, the MDT will plan the treatment and care they determine will be most effective.

A doctor, nurse, or cancer care coordinator will discuss this information with you after each meeting. Your input is crucial. MDT care is designed to be patient-centered as well as effective. For this reason, the team member that meets with you will be very clear about the benefits and risks of each recommended treatment.

If you choose, members of your family or caregivers can be present for these discussions.

Finding a Multidisciplinary Team

The use of multidisciplinary teams is standard at many hospitals and cancer care facilities. After getting a diagnosis, you may immediately be referred to an MDT at your clinic or hospital. Ask your oncologist or the professional in charge of your care if your case has been reviewed by an MDT. If not, find out when you can expect this to occur. 

If you haven't been assigned to an MDT and want one, make sure your wishes are known and complied with. If you hit a snag, ask to be put in touch with a patient advocate, cancer care coordinator, or social worker on the hospital staff.

Summary

People being treated for lung cancer benefit when their care is coordinated through a multidisciplinary team (MDT). MDTs are comprised of healthcare professionals with multiple specialties, including oncologists, radiologists, and lung cancer nurse specialists

Lung cancer patients can expect to be referred to an MDT shortly after or during the diagnostic process. If this does not occur, tell the specialist in charge of your care that you wish to work with an MDT.

A Word From Verywell

Getting a diagnosis of lung cancer can feel overwhelming. Working with a multidisciplinary team can be highly beneficial for streamlining and improving treatment. Your team can also help you understand each step in your treatment plan process.

Remember that your input is pivotal to your care. Make sure to ask questions and to make your treatment goals known.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is multidisciplinary care important in cancer?

    Effective cancer care typically requires multiple types of treatment. An MDT is made up of specialists who are experienced and knowledgeable in every area of treatment that impacts patient care. This streamlines treatment and makes it more effective.

  • Who is the most important member of your care team?

    You are. As the person undergoing treatment, your needs and goals are pivotal to the planning of your care. Don't be afraid to ask questions, or to make your preferences known.

  • What is a multidisciplinary cancer team?

    An MDT is a group of healthcare professionals across disciplines who work together to form a treatment plan for a cancer patient. All aspects of patient treatment and care may be represented on an MDT.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Cancer Society. What is lung cancer?

  2. Kowalczyk A, Jassem J. Multidisciplinary team care in advanced lung cancer. Transl Lung Cancer Res. 2020;9(4):1690-1698. doi:10.21037/tlcr.2019.11.33