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Back to the Future for Clinical Oncology.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  10387977     Owner:  NLM     Status:  Publisher    
Dear Colleague: I remember, but just barely, what it was like to practice medicine in the first half of this century. My Dad was a general practitioner in a very small farming community in central Illinois, with a hospital of six beds and a trusting clientele. His patients thought he knew how to do everything: deliver babies, set broken bones and take out an appendix. He was an advocate for his patients, not for an HMO or an insurance company. He derived great satisfaction from his practice and was comfortable in this role, up to a point, but knew that he frequently needed the help of specialists from Decatur, St. Louis, and the Mayo Clinic. As his experience and practice evolved, and as medicine itself changed, referrals became a sign of good practice and not an indication of weakness or inadequacy. Some doctors in our town continued to do more than they should have and resisted the trend, and their patients, many with blind faith in their doctor, suffered for it. Clearly, there were economic as well as emotional factors that contributed to this reluctance to ask for help. Clinical oncology is facing much the same situation today. Scientific and economic forces are revolutionizing medicine, but not always in compatible directions. Practice and research have evolved to the point where old patterns of practice are no longer optimal. Few cancer patients can be managed without the input, advice, and even direct involvement of specialists from sister disciplines. Thus, multimodality management of cancer patients is now the norm rather than the exception. At the same time, strong economic forces are dictating a movement in the opposite direction, undermining the strength of traditional academic centers and limiting choices, streamlining patient evaluation, and creating "pathways" to standardize patient management. Who should be setting the course for the cancer patient? We agree that it should not be a clerk at the other end of the phone at the HMO, a computerized practice manual, or even the gatekeeper, who watches his or her capitated bottom line with great nervousness. It should be the physician(s) best able to evaluate the alternatives and communicate these choices to the patient and family. Often it is not possible for a solo physician to make these choices in isolation, particularly when the decisions involve multiple specialties and multimodality therapies. At presentation, many primary cancers now require an integration of the opinion of more than one specialist, and increasingly this integration occurs before surgery. Breast, lung, and prostate cancer, three of our most common diseases, illustrate this point with growing clarity. While less convenient for the doctor, and perhaps less efficient than the "old style" of practice, multimodatity disease center clinics offer significant advantages both to the patient and to the research effort, and are here to stay. Certainly for the payer it is faster and cheaper to have one doctor do it all, but I doubt that the results will be as good. Obviously not all patients need this cooperative approach. It would waste good physicians' time to require that all patients be seen by a radiotherapist, surgeon, and medical oncologist or pediatric oncologist. The specific circumstances may clearly dictate a simple approach and an uncomplicated decision, particularly in dealing with metastatic solid tumors, or at the other extreme, in managing easily resectable, low-risk tumors. However, even here, optimal management of local disease or of potentially resectable metastases may require consideration of an expanded series of options. Thus, all cancer specialists need to be aware of the potential of their colleagues to contribute to disease management. ellipsisWhich brings us to the reason for this journal. The editorial board members of The Oncologist hold the belief that the various subspecialists in oncology should share the same information base and read from the same journal. We believe that cancer specialists should resist the trend to capitulate our responsibilities in disease management to payers, gatekeepers, and hospital administrators. It is up to us to defend the patient's turf and to assure that the patient has an advocate. In order to do so, we will have to be united and fully informed. In this journal, we hope to put the best and latest information on cancer management before our readership, to prepare them for the future, and to do their best as a team for every patient. To this end, we hope to challenge the reader to understand what is new and better, and to let you glimpse the future, not only in terms of research, but also in terms of new team approaches to disease management. We hope to explore how cancer medicine could be and will be practiced as we pass through the economic revolution and return to the future.
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Publication Detail:
Journal Detail:
Title:  The oncologist     Volume:  1     ISSN:  1549-490X     ISO Abbreviation:  Oncologist     Publication Date:  1996  
Date Detail:
Created Date:  1999-06-30     Completed Date:  -     Revised Date:  -    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  9607837     Medline TA:  Oncologist     Country:  -    
Other Details:
Languages:  ENG     Pagination:  I     Citation Subset:  -    
Department of Hematology/Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02114-2617, USA.
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