When a patient is faced with a cancer diagnosis, it is not unusual to consider a second opinion. Patients want reassurance that they are going to receive the highest level of treatment available.

At the McLeod Center for Cancer Treatment and Research, patients receive a second, third, fourth and fifth opinion on their treatment plan from the Tumor Board, whose mission is to provide patients not only with peace of mind but also the best cancer treatment plan possible for each specific diagnosis. After all, if two heads are better than one, then three or four are even better.

Each week at McLeod, physicians representing medical oncology, pathology, radiation oncology, radiology, and surgery, discuss every cancer patient’s case presented to one of four McLeod Tumor Boards. Together, we recommend the best treatment plans for patients with breast cancer, lung cancer, brain and spine cancer as well as any other cancer presented to the board.

Other specialists who might be in attendance to offer expertise in their specialty area include physicians representing cardiothoracic surgery, pulmonology, neurosurgery and physics.

During each McLeod Tumor Board meeting, these groups of physicians review the pertinent imaging scans and diagnostic studies, as well as the pathology, and receive a presentation of the patient’s case, including their history of physical findings.

The board’s recommendations are then provided to the patient’s physician to support his or her plans for treatment. The patient and the physician make the final decision regarding the plan of care based on the information and suggestions from at least five other physician consults on the case from the McLeod Tumor Board.

With breast cancer being the most commonly treated cancer at McLeod, I find the communication in this area – between the surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists – to be the best of any location I have ever noted. Rarely does a day go by that we are not in contact with medical oncologists and vice versa. This close communication greatly benefits the patients in the management of their disease.

Lung cancer patients also benefit from the expertise of cardiothoracic surgeons and those physicians in medical and radiation oncology, pulmonary, radiology and pathology who discuss their cases. These physicians evaluate the patient’s diagnosis and determine the safest, most efficient way to treat the lesion, whether that encompasses conventional or robotic surgery, the use of chemotherapy and/or traditional radiation versus stereotactic body radiotherapy.

We also have a separate Tumor Board meeting every other Thursday morning dedicated to our neuro-oncology cases. During this meeting, we work with the neurosurgeons and physicists to come up with the best plan for each patient. This allows us to evaluate a patient’s tumor to see if they are a candidate for stereotactic radiosurgery, if chemotherapy is indicated or whether we need additional pathology before making a decision on exactly how to treat the cancer.

The McLeod Tumor Board is especially important in the more challenging and unusual cases. Using this approach, we bring together specialists who are experts in their field to collaborate and reach a unified decision on the best plan of care for the patient.

Our patients remain at the center of what we do, and this team mindset gives us an opportunity to deliver the most advanced, effective treatment available to patients diagnosed with cancer.

Radiation oncologist Dr. T. Rhett Spencer has been treating patients at McLeod Regional Medical Center for more than 30 years. Board certified in radiation oncology, he is also the coordinator of the McLeod Tumor Boards. He received his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston. He also completed his residency and internship at MUSC.

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