Each Wednesday morning, a team of about 30 experts gathers at the Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls with a single-minded focus.
The members of the team are voracious researchers, and the focus of their meeting is a comprehensive review of the cases of breast cancer patients who are receiving care from the Institute’s physicians. During this meeting, sometimes called the tumor conference, experts from a wide range of cancer-fighting disciplines review imaging, biopsy results and reams of other information. They collaborate knowing no two patients have the same cancer.
“While some cases are more straightforward, this meeting can really help us to personalize the care each patient receives,” said Avera Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Patient Navigator Nancy Terveen. “But cancer care is continually evolving and our surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and others on the team can share insight, share findings and compare notes. So every patient is actually receiving the attention of a large group of cancer experts.”
Terveen said that the weekly meetings allow for the latest research to be discussed. Clinical trials that are starting are one area where physicians share information. She said this approach offers opportunities for doctors to consider a variety of approaches.
“When we can gather multiple surgeons in one room, we can look at all the options, and while the primary physician for that cancer patient will have the final say, the group can offer insights and make recommendations,” she said. “We can look at the results of certain approaches and consider the qualifications of other patients. It’s a way to personalize care and we go through the information for all new patients.”
The team evaluates all Avera Cancer Institute breast cancer patient cases at the start of care as well as a second time when treatment is completed, Terveen said.
“The biggest thing is that your doctor presents your case within a multidisciplinary discussion, where other physicians and others can augment his or her ideas for the best approach,” she said. “When more opinions are shared, research shows it leads to better results, and since every patient is different, it’s good to get more insight.”
Avera Cancer Institute has held these meetings for almost a decade, and Terveen said they continue because they help the most important person who is at the center of the entire conversation: the patient.
“Studies are published almost every day, and that information can help our physicians and their patients,” she said. “We also review every patient’s information at least twice, so that we can personalize their journey and give them every possible piece of information that can make a difference and result in the best possible outcome.”