Departmental News

CONTRIBUTING TO THE NEW LUNG CANCER EVALUATION CENTER: Offering Patients the Benefits of Multidisciplinary Care

In December 2000, the Cancer Institute of Long Island at Stony Brook established a new program in comprehensive patient care called the Lung Cancer Evaluation Center. This clinical program brings together all the different specialists needed to care for patients with known or suspected lung cancer, as well as those individuals at special risk of developing lung cancer.

Our thoracic surgeons Thomas V. Bilfinger, MD, ScD, clinical professor of surgery; Allison J. McLarty, MD, assistant professor of surgery; and Adam E. Saltman, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery will be active members of the Center's multidisciplinary team.

Now patients who have x-ray abnormalities that might represent lung cancer, or patients who have a known diagnosis of cancer, can undergo evaluation by all of the physicians involved in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.

Sharona Sachs, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine, is the program director and principal pulmonologist. John J. Fiore, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine, is the principal oncologist in the new program.

Now at Stony Brook, patients who have x-ray abnormalities that might represent lung cancer, or patients who have a known diagnosis of cancer, can undergo evaluation by all of the physicians involved in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer lung specialists, cancer specialists, thoracic surgeons, and radiation therapy specialists, all with particular interest and expertise in lung cancer.

At the conclusion of the initial visit, each patient's case has been reviewed by all of these different specialists. A plan for diagnosis or treatment is then formulated based on their combined expert opinion. Patients and their families have an opportunity to discuss their questions about lung cancer and all of the options for diagnosing and treating it with the physician who specializes in the particular option that is recommended for them.

At that same visit, all diagnostic tests that are required for treatment are scheduled, and all follow-up arrangements for care are made by our program coordinator.

The Benefits of Multidisciplinary Care

The multidisciplinary approach to medical care means simultaneous assessment by all of the specialists whose expertise is required to offer the best solution to a problem. In the case of known or suspected lung cancer, there are several ways to approach diagnosis and treatment, depending on the appearance and location of the x-ray abnormalities and on the health and preferences of each individual patient.

Diagnosis might involve participation from pulmonologists, radiologists, or thoracic surgeons. Treatment might involve any combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiation.

When patients with possible lung cancer are evaluated outside of a multidisciplinary program, they often see a number of different doctors on many different days. This process usually allows for gathering of all of the opinions required to deliver appropriate care, but is inconvenient and anxiety provoking.

When a patient is seen at the Lung Cancer Evaluation Center, his or her case is reviewed by a pulmonologist, a thoracic surgeon, an oncologist, and a radiation oncologist, so that a comprehensive plan is generated from just one visit.

In this way, anxiety, delay, and inconvenience are minimized. Communication among all of the specialists involved is ensured as well, and patients can directly address their questions and concerns to the principal specialist involved in their care.

The multidisciplinary approach also facilitates access to all of the latest developments in each of the specialties oncology, pulmonary medicine, radiation, and surgery touching upon cancer care.

Offering a Full Range of Care

The Lung Cancer Evaluation Center is meant to be a resource for patients who have chest x-ray abnormalities that might be lung cancer, for patients who have an established diagnosis of lung cancer, or for individuals who are at special risk of developing lung cancer because of family history, occupational exposure to chemicals known to cause lung cancer, or heavy tobacco use.

The combined evaluation by our specialists can offer the best means of determining whether a chest x-ray abnormality is cancerous, treating an abnormality that is known to be lung cancer, and screening patients at high risk of developing lung cancer with the latest available technologies.

At the time of the initial visit, all of the tests necessary to determine the best course of care are arranged if they have not already been completed. Once the results of these tests are known, a plan of care is developed and discussed at length with each patient.

If a patient has a pre-established relationship with a doctor, or is seeking a second opinion, the recommendations of the multidisciplinary group of physicians are communicated to the physician of the patient's choice.

For more information about the Center, please call Dr. Sachs at 631-444-1776.

For consultations/appointments, please call the program coordinator, Eileen Vilim, RN, at 631-444-2981.

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