Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

Cancer Care Q & A: The Role of Tumor Boards

With radiation oncologist Matthew Vernon, MD

As a radiation oncologist at the Dartmouth Cancer Center at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, Matthew Vernon, MD, participates in the weekly tumor boards. Here, he explains what a tumor board is and the critical role it plays in providing the best cancer care possible.

Q: What is a tumor board?

A tumor board is a group of doctors and other health care providers with different specialties that meet to review different cancer cases and offer their thoughts and insight. At the Dartmouth Cancer Center at SVMC, tumor boards typically include members of multiple specialty teams, including medical oncology, radiation oncology, pathology, radiology, surgery, and palliative care, as well as members of the nursing and navigation teams, a social worker, a nutritionist, and physical therapists. Each brings their own experience and perspective to the discussion so that the resulting care plan is thoroughly informed and thoughtfully considered.

Q: What happens in a tumor board meeting?

Typically, the providers share the patient’s medical history and what sorts of tests have been done so far. Any imaging, biopsy results and lab work are shared with the board. Together, we identify what treatment options do or don’t make sense for the patient, what potential risks each might pose and how they could be addressed, any additional testing or imaging that might benefit the decision-making process, and so forth. Everyone is given the opportunity to weigh in with their concerns, opinions, and collectively we discuss next steps or develop the care plan.

Q: How does the tumor board benefit patients?

The tumor board brings the experience and expertise of a range of specialists into one meeting and discussion, which provides a far more efficient and meaningful exchange of ideas and information than a series of small meetings provides. Having multiple sets of eyes on every patient’s case ensures that everyone’s recommendations are heard and make it more likely that the patient can have a favorable outcome. Also, it can be an educational opportunity, allowing us as providers to keep up to date on new advances that may come along in other medical specialties that may affect the care of our patients.

Q: Do all cases get reviewed by SVMC’s tumor board?

Yes, all cancer cases are discussed by the SVMC tumor board. The nature and complexity of the case as well as the patient’s condition determines how extensive a discussion will be or how many specialists may be involved, but every case is reviewed by the tumor board.

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