The importance of a multidisciplinary team in the care of head and neck cancer

Learn about the importance of a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach for the treatment of head and neck cancer to improve the quality of life for head and neck cancer patients and survivors. Paweł Golusiński (Poznań University of Medical Sciences and Greater Poland Cancer Center, Poland), Nilda Suslu (Hacettepe University, Turkey), Carlo Restighini (The National Cancer Institute of Milan, Italy) and Femke Jansen (VU University, Netherlands) discuss this important topic at the 8th European Congress on Head and Neck Oncology (ECHNO, Rome, Italy, 11–14 April 2018) in the session ‘Exploring the Power, Purpose and Practice of an Integrated Approach to Care’ held by the Make Sense campaign.

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The Make Sense Campaign was established in 2013; this is the great initiative run by the European Head and Neck Society. It has three essential pillars; first is driving the awareness and education, spreading knowledge concerning the treatment of head and neck cancers among society. The second pillar is encouraging and facilitating earlier presentation of the patient’s earlier diagnosis and referral to specialists. Finally, improving the quality of care for patients; including diagnosis and care with a great impact from multidisciplinary collaboration.

No one in any expertise or any profession can make optimal treatment decisions for head and neck cancers because the management of head and neck cancers is very complex. You need a team for the best treatment choices.

We need this team because we have different treatment options for head and neck cancers but we have to choose the best one for each patient. No one in any expertise or profession can make optimal treatment decisions individually.

The main goal, as you know, is curing the patient. But also we want to reduce the symptoms, less toxic regimes and we want to maintain quality of life for the patient. All these treatment goals should be achieved only by a team. A multidisciplinary approach is critical for our patients as it can improve the survival, it can help us make better decisions but our experience is that this approach can also help us to better communicate with our patients. Several disciplines are involved in providing optimal supportive care to head and neck cancer patients.

The core members include head and neck surgeons, radiation and medical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, swallow and speech pathologists, nurse specialists and also dieticians. All over the world we need these teams as we can make best decision plans, best acute staging for the patients and we can improve the patient’s survival with these meetings.