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Consult A Cancer Specialist

Not sure where to turn after diagnosis? Karmanos offers advice.

Newly-diagnosed patients with a cancerous tumor may not be sure where to turn next. Should you schedule an appointment with a medical oncologist to discuss treatments? Or should you see a surgical oncologist to review your options?

The answer lies in the nature of the tumor itself, says Philip A. Philip, M.D., Ph.D., F.R.C.P., a medical oncologist and leader of the Gastrointestinal and Neuroendocrine Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at the Karmanos Cancer Center.

“Doctors generally find a tumor after a patient has a scan for a symptom like abdominal or back pain or following a test like an endoscopy,” Dr. Philip says. “If a suspicious lump or mass is found, the next step is to get a biopsy. An internist or radiologist usually orders this procedure to determine whether the mass is cancerous and the type of the cancer. If the mass is localized and has not spread to any other organ, then the patient would see a surgical oncologist. The surgical oncologist will review options for removing the cancer from the body before it has a chance to spread.”

“Surgical removal of the tumor remains the primary curative treatment option for most cancers,” says Steve H. Kim, M.D., FACS, Karmanos’ chief of Surgical Oncology. “At Karmanos, the surgical oncologist plays an integral part in the team approach to complicated GI malignancies.”

If the cancer has spread, then the patient would see a medical oncologist. Medical oncologists discuss other possible treatments and act as the ‘quarterback’ in organizing the patient’s care. They provide chemotherapy and referrals for other therapies such as radiation treatment or interventional radiology.

“For certain types of cancer, such as rectal or esophageal, the standard of care may include chemotherapy and radiation therapy prior to performing surgery,” Dr. Philip says. “The goal is to shrink the cancer as much as possible prior to operation and to enhance the success rate of surgery.”

Medical oncologists also go over available clinical trial options – cutting edge treatments that may be better than standard therapies and have to be considered as a treatment option in the majority of patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer.

Because coordinated care is so important during cancer treatment, Dr. Philip recommends patients seek a healthcare system that offers specialized and well-integrated multidisciplinary care.

“If you have a newly-diagnosed lump or a cancer, don’t rush to see the next available doctor,” Dr. Philip advises. “Find a multidisciplinary cancer team that offers a highly specialized care in a large volume cancer program.”

A multidisciplinary team can also offer the individual a valuable second opinion regarding treatment but also on the diagnosis itself, he adds. For example, pathological interpretations sometimes vary with major consequences on treatment outcomes.
“You always want an expert pathologist who specializes in your particular cancer to review your initial diagnosis,” Dr. Philip says. “At Karmanos, we have integrated teams of specialists who focus on specific cancer types. We work together to create customized treatment plan for each patient with newly diagnosed cancer.”


Karmanos offers 13 multidisciplinary teams, each designed and staffed specifically to ensure that patients get their cancer diagnosis and treatment right the first time. Each team includes cancer specialists who have devoted their careers to fighting the very cancer with which you are confronted.

For more information about a cancer diagnosis and treatment, or to obtain an expert second opinion from a physician who specializes in your cancer, call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266) or visit

© 2014 Karmanos Cancer Institute Pencil
The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center is accredited by The Joint Commission.
If members of the public have any quality-of-care or safety concerns, they may notify The Joint Commission at 630-792-5800.