Tumor Board Basics
What is a tumor board?
When you are diagnosed with cancer, you will have tests done. A biopsy (tissue sample) is used to find out what type of cancer you have. Imaging tests are used to see where your cancer is and how big it is. Blood tests are done to learn more about your cancer and how your organs are working. The results help your oncology team choose the best treatment for you. Sometimes, your team wants the input of other oncology team members. To do this, your case is talked about at a tumor board meeting.
A tumor board is a meeting where specialists (experts) from different areas of oncology get together. They talk about the diagnosis and treatment plan for a patient. Tumor board can go by many names, like case conference, tumor conference, and multidisciplinary meetings.
Who takes part in tumor board?
There are many people who take part in tumor board. It is a “multidisciplinary” meeting, meaning people from many disciplines, or areas of healthcare, come together. These people may be:
- Medical oncologists.
- Radiation oncologists.
- Physical therapists.
- Speech therapists.
- Social workers.
- Nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants.
- Genetic experts.
Other specialists may be there based on your case. These meetings can happen in person or virtually (online). Each cancer center has its own schedule on how often the tumor board meets.
What does a tumor board do?
The board talks about a patient’s test results and cancer diagnosis. Together they come up with a treatment plan. During the tumor board, everyone reviews the case together (imaging tests, blood tests, biopsy results, molecular testing, etc.). They may talk about other tests that need to be done. They also talk about possible treatments (like surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, clinical trial). Each specialist shares their views so they can find the best plan for the patient.
Do all cancer cases need a tumor board meeting?
No. Sometimes a cancer diagnosis is clear, and treatment is easy to decide. Not all cancer diagnoses or treatment plans are this clear. There may be things like health issues, genetic changes, or family history that need to be kept in mind. Getting the views of the tumor board experts can help a team decide the best plan for you.
Your thoughts and wishes also matter when it comes to creating a treatment plan. It is important that you talk to your care team about what you want and do not want. Together, you will be able to create a plan for the treatment of your cancer.