Published: Nov. 9, 2007
Updated: Dec. 2, 2010
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 2007 reported that Medicare patients with lung cancer see an average of 11 different doctors a year (for cancer and non-cancer reasons).
At the Duke Cancer Institute, physicians, nurses, and other caregivers use a team approach to care for patients. Medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgeons often visit with the patient during the initial appointment and then discuss the case to ensure the patient is provided with the most effective treatment plan. The lung cancer team at Duke is an example of this multidisciplinary approach.
“I am quite impressed with how convenient everything is at Duke,” says William Yen, PhD, a physics professor from Athens, Ga., who is being treated at Duke for lung cancer caused by an autoimmune disease. In one visit, Yen was seen by medical oncologist Jennifer Garst, MD; surgical oncologist Tommy D’Amico, MD; and radiation oncologist Nicole Larrier, MD.
“In other places, it would likely have taken three weeks to get separate appointments with three specialists,” Yen says.
Garst, D’Amico, and Larrier agreed that the best treatment option for Yen was an approach known as expectant management or “watchful waiting.” This approach involves closely monitoring the cancer without active treatment. The physicians recommended this approach because Yen’s cancer was very small and because of his previous autoimmune disease. Yen returns to Duke every six weeks for tests to ensure that the cancer has not grown or spread.
In addition to a team of oncologists, patients have access to a broad range of specialists throughout Duke Medicine including cardiologists, gastroenterologists, orthopedists, and integrative medicine specialists.
“I was having breathing problems related to my cancer, so Dr. Garst’s office scheduled an appointment for me to see Dr. Momen Wahidi, a pulmonologist. I was also diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, and Dr. Vic Tapson came to the clinic to treat me,” says Yen. “It was very convenient having these doctors here and not having to leave Duke’s clinics.”
Counselors, therapists, and patient educators team with the patient and the oncologists to provide support and resources. DJ Pappas, MEd, NCC, LPC, a counselor with the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program, visits each new lung cancer patient to discuss any needs or questions the patient or family have.
“At Duke, we try to make everything as convenient as possible,” says Garst. “Many organizations talk about multidisciplinary care, but at Duke it is real. We’re all part of the same team working to achieve the best result for each patient.”