DETROIT -- Henry Ford Health Hospital researchers have found that women with breast cancer, who are treated at a full-service multi-disciplinary clinic, receive faster diagnosis and treatment and are more satisfied with their care than women treated by scheduling separate appointments with a number of physicians.
In a study published in the June 15 issue of Cancer, Henry Ford researchers found that the time between diagnosis and the initiation of treatment was significantly decreased between women who were seen in a multi-disciplinary breast clinic and women seen by health care providers on successive appointments.
A multi-disciplinary breast clinic brings together all professsionals involved in the patient's diagnosis and treatment. Medical, radiation and surgical oncologists, radiologists, nurses, social workers, plastic surgeons, pathologists, genetics counselors and research coordinators work as one unit, intent on providing optimal treatment. In a multi-disciplinary clinic, patients no longer have to schedule successive appointments with each specialty group. Rather, they see all the health care workers at one appointment.
In the study, women who were seen in the breast clinic had definitive treatment within 29.6 days, compared with women seeing a specialist in the traditional sequential fashion. Those women began treatment 42.2 days after diagnosis.
Henry Ford started its Breast Cancer Care Clinic in 1994, making it the first of its kind in metro Detroit. More than 400 women are treated there each year, making it the largest breast cancer practice in southeast Michigan. The success of the clinic has lead Henry Ford Health System to open up a second one at the Henry Ford Medical Center - West Bloomfield.
"Although multi-disciplinary clinics aren't a new venture in health care, this is the first time we've been able to quantify the benefits for women," says Molly Gabel, M.D., a Henry Ford radiation oncologist, and lead author of the study.
David Nathanson, M.D., a Henry Ford surgical oncologist and director of the Henry Ford Breast Cancer Care Clinics, says, "This is a most important aspect of breast cancer treatment that too often is overlooked. Having a multi-disciplinary clinic enhances the way we manage and treat our patients."
Patients also are more satisfied with their care in a multi-disciplinary clinic, Dr. Nathanson says. "When a woman has found a lump in her breast, she wants to deal with it as quickly as possible. She doesn't want to have to make an appointment with a medical oncologist, then with a radiation oncologist, then with a surgeon and so on and so on."
Another important aspect of a multi-disciplinary clinic is that a nursing coordinator ensures that the patients and families receive the proper education and support during this time.
"Every aspect of the cancer must be treated, including the emotional aspect," Dr. Nathanson says. "As a physician, I am working with a team to treat the patient to ensure a whole and complete recovery. I can do that better by working in the multi-disciplinary clinic setting."