Just yesterday I was chatting with a colleague about the history of lung cancer treatment. We talked about how lung cancer was treated just a few decades ago versus what's happening at present and where treatment is headed in the future. It was one of those conversations that make my kids groan - "mom talking about the 'olden days' of medicine" - but in this case there was no nostalgia. I was genuinely excited about the direction medicine is taking for people with lung cancer.
Almost uncannily, the first article I happened to review this morning made me feel like someone had eavesdropped on that conversation and delivered - overnight - an eloquent review of the entire topic.
The crux of the article is that we are heading on a path in which lung cancer is addressed by a team. While historically we treated everyone with lung cancer in essentially the same manner, with care managed by a single physician, the new "ideal" is to have a "team" of doctors and other health care providers (something termed multidisciplinary management in medical lingo) to manage each person with cancer in a unique way.
This article highlighted some of the following points on where the future of lung cancer treatment is headed:
- A multidisciplinary approach should be used throughout a patient's journey with lung cancer - beginning with diagnosis, continuing throughout treatment and end-of-life care for those people in whom cancer progresses.
- Unlike the days of old in which a paternalistic physician "told" a patient what treatment she should undergo, patients need to be involved in the decision making process.
- Palliative care should be an early part of the treatment plan - not something that is delayed until all other treatments are exhausted. As noted recently, palliative care not only improves quality of life for people living with lung cancer, but may improve survival as well.
- Multidisciplinary case conferencing - meetings in which the myriad of providers caring for a patient gather to discuss management - is an important part of care.
- Psychosocial and nutritional support should be a routine part of care.
Thinking about the future of lung cancer treatment in this way is exciting - and maybe, just maybe, my kids will soon be groaning saying, "now mom's talking about the good 'new' days in medicine.
Photo: National Cancer Institute, unknown photographer
Ellis, P. The importance of multidisciplinary team management of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. Current Oncology. 2012. 19(Supplement 1):S7-S15.