October 07, 2019
National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers like The University of Kansas Cancer Center offer patients a 25% greater chance of survival. One reason for this impressive statistic is our tumor conference review, which is integral to the coordinated multidisciplinary and precision cancer care we provide.
A tumor conference is a gathering of physicians, nurses and other specialists from a variety of departments throughout our health system. They meet to discuss an individual case in depth. The result is a multidisciplinary opinion and coordination of care that gives our cancer patients a powerful advantage.
Collegial and comprehensive collaboration
Every week, our nurse navigators choreograph the upcoming tumor conference meetings. They invite 5-20 participants whose expertise is relevant to the case being reviewed. Colleagues may sit together around a conference table or collaborate virtually from our multiple cancer center locations via iTV. Tumor conference reviews typically take place at the beginning or end of the workday so they don’t conflict with patient appointments.
The physician who most recently examined the patient presents the case to the group. The patient’s records, scans and lab results are available for all to see. Then, everyone participates in an open and frank discussion about the diagnosis and treatment plan.
During a tumor conference review, we not only consider the initial care plan but how treatment might affect a patient in the long run. If the diagnosis is head and neck cancer, we invite speech and occupational therapists who understand the importance of rehabilitation techniques. For a breast cancer patient, we hear from a reconstruction specialist about the patient’s future options. If a patient has sarcoma, we bring in a prosthetist who can describe the latest concepts in limb replacement.
Here are some of the specialists who may take part in a tumor conference meeting:
- Medical oncologist
- Surgical oncologist
- Breast surgeon
- Transplant surgeon
- Thoracic surgeon
- Diagnostic radiation oncologist
- Interventional radiation oncologist
- Molecular oncologist
- Pain management specialist
- Nurse navigator
- Speech therapist
- Physical therapist
- Occupational therapist
- Clinical trial researcher
- Social worker
After carefully reviewing the patient’s information, tumor conference members arrive at a consensus. The comprehensive report is shared internally and with the referring physician. If the patient’s condition changes over time or new treatments become available, we will keep the tumor conference, discuss the patient again and modify our recommendations.
Multiple specialty tumor conferences
Smaller hospitals and clinics seldom have the breadth and depth of specialists for even one tumor conference. At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we have 14. Some of our tumor conferences concentrate on a particular tumor site, such as the liver. Some focus solely on a type of cancer, such as sarcoma. We have the region’s only molecular tumor conference; this helps us interpret gene testing and implement novel treatment therapies. It is integral to the precision oncology care we provide.
Not every cancer case requires a full tumor conference review. Straightforward cases may be discussed by just 2 or 3 participants. As the complexity of the case increases, so do the number of physicians and support staff who join the meeting.
Better than a second opinion
Ask your referring physician about the importance of tumor conference reviews. Just one visit to The University of Kansas Cancer Center can result in expert advice from an entire team of cancer specialists. It’s the easiest and quickest way to discover standardized treatment protocols, as well as leading-edge therapies and clinical trials. And that’s what sets us, as an NCI-designated cancer center, apart from the rest.