your healthcare team

Your healthcare team is a group of doctors and other health professionals who have expert knowledge in your type of cancer. They are called your multidisciplinary team (MDT) and include:

  • a surgeon (who specialises in your type of cancer)
  • a medical oncologist (chemotherapy specialist)
  • a clinical oncologist (radiotherapy and chemotherapy specialist)
  • a nurse specialist
  • radiologists who help to analyse x-rays and scans
  • pathologists who advise on the type and extent of the cancer.

Everyone’s needs are different, so your MDT meets to discuss and manage you as an individual. As a group, they will develop a treatment plan for you. They will think about your test and scan results, what they know about the cancer and your general health. This means that you are more likely to receive accurate and coordinated care. You may also have a choice of treatment options.

If you’re feeling anxious about treatment, practical and emotional support is available for you and your family. Call our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00 to find out what help is available.

How treatment is planned

In most hospitals a team of specialists will talk to you about the treatment they feel is best for your situation. This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will include:

  • a surgeon (who specialises in your type of cancer)
  • a medical oncologist (chemotherapy specialist)
  • a clinical oncologist (radiotherapy and chemotherapy specialist)
  • a nurse specialist
  • radiologists who help to analyse x-rays and scans
  • pathologists who advise on the type and extent of the cancer.

It may also include other healthcare professionals, such as a palliative care doctor or nurse who specialises in symptom control, dietitian, physiotherapist, occupational therapist (OT), psychologist or counsellor.

The MDT will take a number of factors into account when advising you on the best course of action, including your general health, the type and size of the tumour, and whether it has begun to spread.


How does an MDT work?

How the team is organised will depend on where you live - they may be slightly different across the UK. Some MDTs discuss patients from different hospitals. Specialists may be on teams for a number of different types of cancer.

How often an MDT meets may also vary. This could mean that you have to wait a bit longer to get all the results of your scans and a treatment plan from your doctor. This can be frustrating and worrying - but the pooling of different types of expertise should mean the best possible decisions are made about your treatment and care.

If waiting for results is making you anxious, you may find it helpful to talk about how you’re feeling with a partner, your family or close friends. You can also talk things over with one of our cancer support specialists.


Benefits of an MDT

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that people with cancer should be managed by a multidisciplinary team. People cared for by an MDT are more likely to:

  • receive accurate diagnosis and staging
  • be offered a choice of treatments decided by a group of experts, rather than by one doctor
  • receive better coordination and continuity of care through all stages of the cancer
  • be treated in line with locally agreed policies and national guidelines
  • be offered appropriate and consistent information (because the person giving the information should be aware of the team’s strategy for your care)
  • have their psychological and social needs considered - communication between different team members is better where they have a formal working relationship.


If you’re offered a choice of treatments

It can be difficult if you are offered a choice of treatments and have to decide which to take. There’s a lot of information available to help you make an informed decision. Your key worker or specialist nurse can also help you. Make sure you have enough information about what the treatments involve and any side effects, and feel free to discuss your choice with a member of your MDT.


Who can help?

Many people are available to help you and those close to you. Different people can offer support in the community. District nurses work closely with GPs and, if needed, they can make regular visits to patients and their families at home.

The hospital social worker can give you information about social services and other benefits you may be able to claim while you are ill. For example, you may be entitled to Meals On Wheels, a home helper or money to help with hospital transport fares. The social worker may also be able to help arrange childcare during and after treatment and, if necessary, help with the cost of childminders. Our cancer support specialists on freephone 0808 808 00 00 can tell you more about services in your area.

Some people find it very hard to cope with the impact of a cancer diagnosis. In this situation it can help to have counselling. One-to-one counselling is when you meet with a trained counsellor who can listen to you and help you explore your feelings in a place where you feel safe. It’s confidential and can be a great support during a difficult time.

Many GP practices and hospitals have a counsellor you can talk to or can put you in contact with one. Some support groups and cancer information and support centres offer free counselling services.


Back to Who will be involved in my treatment decision?

How treatment is planned

A group of healthcare professionals will develop your treatment plan. But the decision to start treatment is yours.

Getting a second opinion

There are many reasons for wanting a second opinion about your treatment. Speak to your specialist or GP.

Making a complaint

Talking to your healthcare team can make it easier to cope. If you find talking difficult, there are things you can do.