The team approach to breast cancer care brings together an interdisciplinary group of key medical professionals—gynecologist, radiologist, breast surgeon, medical oncologist and a plastic surgeon—who work together at the onset of a woman's breast cancer diagnosis to develop and implement a treatment plan tailored for each patient. When the team approach is implemented at the time of diagnosis through treatment and recovery, it can result in significantly improved patient outcomes and quality of life.
"Each step of the cancer care journey requires specific medical expertise. When a team of experts works together, the outcome for patients is vastly improved," said ASPS President Michael McGuire, M.D. "However, when these specialists do not work in conjunction, opportunities are missed, and patient outcomes suffer. The problem is the team approach is underutilized."
The ASPS, ASBS, physicians, breast cancer survivors, advocacy groups, manufacturers and the media recently met in New York to discuss the critical role the team approach plays during an event entitled, "Connecting the Docs: The Team Approach to Breast Cancer Care."
During the event, a team of New York-based physicians who practice the team approach including an obstetrician/gynecologist, radiologist, breast surgeon, oncologist, and plastic surgeon emphasized the importance of their individual role in the team. One of their patients, a breast cancer survivor, joined the panel, discussing how this unified approach positively affected her outcome as she went through one of the most difficult times in her life.
'Connecting the Docs'
"We're very excited about 'Connecting the Docs: The Team Approach to Breast Cancer Care' because this helps to start the conversation—to get the word out to all women," said Patrick Whitworth, M.D., ASBS Past Chairman of the Board. "Sometimes the medical community changes when patients start saying 'hey doc, I heard you're supposed to be working with a plastic surgeon here." Women diagnosed with breast cancer have the power, authority, and right to ask for the team approach and, with their voices, perhaps the 'team' can become standard practice."
An alarming statistic discussed at length at the New York event underscores the importance of the team approach, nearly 70 percent of women who are eligible for breast reconstruction are not informed of their reconstructive options by a referring physician. The number is even higher for minority women.
Know your Options Upfront
"Like a sporting event, theatrical performance or an orchestra, each team member is an expert in their respective roles," said panelist and ASPS Vice President Scot Glasberg, M.D. "A plastic surgeon's role on the team is to ensure that the patient knows all of her reconstructive options before her cancer is treated and removed, and that the best reconstructive procedure is performed. If the patient isn't given the chance to consider her reconstructive options before mastectomy, or the procedure is performed by someone who is not board-certified in that field of expertise, it can have a significantly negative effect on their quality of life beyond the disease."
Those in attendance also expressed how essential it is that the team be implemented when a woman is first diagnosed so that she, and her physicians, can understand all of her options and make informed decisions.
"The vast majority of breast cancer patients are missing out on a critical conversation that should take place at the time of diagnosis," said Dr. McGuire. "Involving key specialists early in the process and having them work as a team allows for more coordinated care and fosters the most beneficial outcome for the patient, as the election for breast reconstruction affects the techniques surgeons use to remove the cancer."
For more information visit the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society of Breast Surgeons.