Dr. Carlo M. Contreras, a surgical oncologist with the department of surgery at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, believes that collaboration is the key to optimal cancer care.

"A multidisciplinary approach to cancer care means that a whole team of health care providers are collaborating to help each individual patient," Dr. Contreras said. "The entire treatment team realizes that we're not just fighting cancer. Instead, we are helping a person who happens to be fighting cancer."

Dr. Contreras, who specializes in liver and pancreatic cancer, is affiliated with the Mitchell Cancer Institute and sees patients there. He also treats patients with a variety of skin and gastrointestinal cancers including stomach tumors, neuroendocrine tumors, melanoma and sarcoma.

According to Dr. Contreras, having all the necessary cancer specialists and health care providers under one roof at the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute provides many benefits for patients.

"When the patient is able to meet with all the specialists on the same day, the patient knows that just about all of their questions have been answered," Dr. Contreras said. "Ultimately, this also means that patients start their cancer therapy earlier than if all the doctors' visits were spaced out over a longer period of time." 

Dr. Contreras said another major benefit of having all the cancer specialists work together is the close communication and coordination of care. 

"Often, particularly challenging cases are discussed at a weekly conference attended by physicians of many different specialties - radiology, pathology, radiation oncology, surgery, gastroenterology, and medical oncology," he said. "The purpose of this type of conference is to make sure that our patients are getting the most effective care possible."

Dr. Contreras said multidisciplinary care goes beyond just involving the right doctors. "It means that we involve a nutritionist to address dietary concerns, physical therapists when necessary, a pain specialist, a case worker, and even specialists that can help patients deal with emotions like anxiety or depression. We also provide the opportunity for patients to join patient-led support groups."

"A multidisciplinary approach to cancer care is a thoughtful effort to treat all aspects of cancer and how the disease impacts that patient's life," he added. "Each patient is so unique and so our evaluation and care is really individualized. Patients love it because they know they are getting the best cancer therapy available."

To make an appointment with Dr. Contreras, call (251) 445-8405.

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