When diagnosed with cancer, you should expect the best care possible. Care that has been shown in clinical trials and through research to produce the best outcomes. In cases of colon and rectal cancer, best care is obtained with a team approach.
“Colon and rectal cancer can be very complex. It is very important that the approach to these types of cancer is done through a multidisciplinary team,” said Dr. Alfonso Velasco, colorectal surgeon with Marshfield Clinic Health System. “You need to make sure that members of your provider team have proper training and certifications as insurance that you are getting the best care possible.”
Your multidisciplinary team
A multidisciplinary team that treats colon and rectal cancer should include a:
- Primary care physician
- Colon and rectal surgeon
- Medical oncologist
- Radiation oncologist
In some cases, additional providers such as nurses trained to care for ostomies or stomas and psychologists for mental health should be involved in care.
It is an added benefit if your care team also shares your treatment plan with other doctors. For Dr. Velasco, he talks with providers from across Marshfield Clinic Health System about his most complex cases during a weekly meeting called the gastrointestinal multidisciplinary conference.
“We get together to make sure the patient is receiving up-to-date care of colon and rectal cancer,” Dr. Velasco said. “When you put 14-20 people into a room discussing a patient’s case and treatment – appropriate therapeutic plans come out of it.”
Diagnostics are important
Before you even get to treating colon and rectal cancers, it is important to have a high quality diagnostic colonoscopy.
A diagnostic colonoscopy will remove any polyps that could form cancer, remove lesions and most importantly – take a biopsy of the cancer.
By taking a biopsy of the cancer, your care team can diagnose the specific type of cancer you have and then further diagnostic studies like CT scans or MRIs can ascertain the stage of the cancer. This information is important when deciding how to treat your cancer.
“In the management of people with rectal cancer, radiotherapy specialists, a medical oncologist and a colon and rectal surgeon will coordinate the care of these patients,” Dr. Velasco said.
You should get personalized care
Using the information from the diagnostic colonoscopy and other radiographic studies, your care team should develop a personalized care plan for your type and stage of cancer.
This personalized care plan should take into account certain things about your medical history including your personal background, past medical history and much more.
“We don’t manage colon and rectal cancer – we manage patients with colon and rectal cancers,” Dr. Velasco said. “We are not treating patients as a medical record – we really go deep on all of these reviews to individualize treatment for each person.”
For more information about colon and rectal cancer treatments, talk to your primary care provider.