Multidisciplinary team (MDT) for surgery

A team of specialists meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).


Your multidisciplinary team (MDT)

In most hospitals, a team of specialists will agree on a plan of treatment for you. This team is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). There are different people who could be involved in your treatment and care.

Surgeon

You may see a surgeon at your local hospital. Different surgeons specialise in different types of surgery. For example, if your doctor thinks you may have breast cancer, you will see a breast surgeon. Or if they think you may have bowel cancer, you will see a gastrointestinal surgeon.

When you meet the surgeon, you can ask them if they specialise in the type of surgery you need and what their experience is. You can also look up your surgeon on the hospital trust website.

For some cancers, you may need to see a surgeon who is skilled in a certain surgical technique. This sometimes means going to a specialist hospital further from where you live. We have more information about help with travel costs to and from hospital.

Nurses

Many hospitals have a type of specialist cancer nurse called a clinical nurse specialist (CNS). They:

  • have expert knowledge about specific cancers
  • will give you support and information before, during and after treatment
  • are often at your hospital appointments with the surgeon.

You will also meet surgical nurses during your pre-assessment clinic appointment, on the ward or in the day unit. Sometimes you will meet specialist surgical nurses. They are called surgical practitioners or enhanced recovery nurses. They work closely with the surgeon and have specialist knowledge and experience.

The nurses you meet can give you information about how to prepare for surgery and what to expect before, during and after your operation.

Your key worker or contact person

Usually one of the nurses who looks after you is named as your key worker. This is often a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

You should contact them if you need more information or support before, during or after surgery. If you are not sure who your key worker is, you can call the hospital or ask someone at your next appointment.

Other members of the MDT

These are some of the other team members you may meet, depending on the type of cancer you have or the support you need.

  • Radiologist

    A radiologist is a doctor who specialises in understanding x-rays and scans. X-rays and scans are important in helping the surgeon plan the surgery. Sometimes, radiologists take biopsies for diagnosis or give you treatments.

  • Physiotherapist

    You may see a physiotherapist during your treatment. They can show you exercises to help prevent muscle and joint stiffness. Physiotherapists help with your recovery and can help prevent long-term problems. They may give you exercises to help prevent lymphoedema if your surgery included removal of lymph nodes, or bladder problems if you have had prostate surgery.

  • Dietitian

    A dietitian can give you advice if you have problems eating and drinking because of your surgery. If you have surgery to the mouth, throat, stomach or bowel, you may need to change your eating patterns.

  • Stoma nurse

    Some people who have bowel surgery may need a stoma. This is an opening in the tummy (abdomen) wall that stools (poo) pass out from. Your surgeon will talk to you about this before surgery. A stoma care nurse will teach you how to manage your stoma at home. They will continue to support you after you go home. They can help you cope with any problems.

  • Speech and language therapist

    A speech and language therapist (SLT) can help if you have difficulties talking, eating or drinking after some types of surgery. For example, this could be if you have had surgery for a head and neck cancer.

  • Social worker

    Social workers can give advice about any non-medical problems you have. They can offer practical and financial help. For example, they can tell you if you might be able to claim travel expenses or get a grant from a charity.

  • Counsellors and psychologists

    You may need help from a counsellor or psychologist to help you manage your feelings. Some changes after surgery can be difficult to cope with. This can happen if a part of the body is removed, you develop scarring, or your speech changes.

    These changes can affect your body image. If you feel that speaking to a counsellor or psychologist would be helpful, talk to your doctor or specialist nurse. They can usually arrange this.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our general surgery information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    National Institute for Health and Excellence (NICE). Surgical site infections: prevention and treatment NICE guidelines (NG125). April 2019. Available from: www.nice.org.uk (accessed August 2019).

    National Institute for Health and Excellence (NICE). Venous thromboembolism in over 16s: reducing the risk of hospital-acquired deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism NICE guidelines (NG89). March 2018. Available from: www.nice.org.uk (accessed August 2019).

    Wyntner-Blyth V and Moorthy K. Prehabilitation: preparing patients for surgery. BMJ 2017; 358: j3702 doi: 10.1136/bmj. j3702 (accessed August 2019).

    The British Association of Urological Surgeons Limited (baus.org.uk). The BAUS Enhanced Recovery Programme. Available from: www.baus.org.uk (accessed July 2019).


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.