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The Oncology Team
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In cancer care, a patient is often treated by a team of oncologists who specialise in different areas...

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The Oncology Team

What is an oncologist?

An oncologist is a doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating cancer. Your oncologist oversees your care from diagnosis throughout the course of the disease. 

In cancer care, a patient is often treated by a team of oncologists who specialise in different areas of oncology and types of treatments. For instance, a medical oncologist uses medications to treat cancer, a radiation oncologist specialises in radiation therapy to treat cancer, and a surgical oncologist is a cancer surgeon.

Who else is on my oncology team?

In addition to oncologists, there may be other specialists on your cancer care team. Here are descriptions of different providers who may be involved in your care. This may be helpful as you learn the role of each person involved in your treatment and care. You are encouraged to ask questions and communicate regularly with members of your care team about how you are feeling and any concerns you have.

Oncology nurse specialize in cancer care. They serve in many roles, depending on their experience, education, and specialized certifications. The responsibilities of an oncology nurse may include:

  • Giving physical examinations
  • Giving chemotherapy or other medications
  • Identifying patient needs, including symptoms and side effects
  • Coordinating care with other members of the oncology team
  • Performing research as part of a clinical trial

Advanced providers, like oncology nurse practitioner (NPs) Clinical associates(CAs). 

These providers meet with patients and will collaborate with the oncology team, including a supervising oncologist. Their responsibilities may include:

  • Giving physical examinations
  • Ordering and interpreting laboratory and diagnostic test results
  • Diagnosing cancer and other illnesses
  • Prescribing and administering medications and other therapies
  • Performing procedures and assisting with surgery
  • Providing education and counseling for patients and families
  • Performing research as part of a clinical trial

Patient navigator-

This individual guides people from diagnosis through survivorship. A patient navigator can help you find counseling, financial, and other support services. Patient navigators can be nurses, social workers, or volunteers.

Palliative care doctors and nurses. 

The palliative care team works closely with other oncology team members to prevent and treat the symptoms and side effects of cancer and its treatment. This may also be called supportive care. A palliative care specialist is especially helpful when a person is still experiencing pain and other symptoms despite treatment for these symptoms.

Genetic counsellors

 Genetic counselors are health professionals who can help you understand cancer genetics, and your and your family’s cancer risk. Genetic information may be an important factor in your cancer treatment planning.

Pathologist.

 A Pathologist is a medical doctor who specializes in looking at cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease. You may or may not meet your pathologist in person, but your pathologist plays an important role in figuring out the type of cancer you have. Your pathologist will determine the results of your tests, provide the final diagnosis of cancer, and work directly with your oncologists. 

Oncology clinical pharmacist 

Experts in the safe and effective use of drugs to treat cancer. They monitor your prescribed medications to notice, prevent, and manage any problems. This can include drug interactions, dosage adjustments, drug administration, and side effects.

Registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). 

 This can include recommendations to help cope with weight changes, appetite loss, mouth sores, and other side effects. In hospitals and other health care centers, the dietitian provides medical nutrition therapy.

Diagnostic radiologist. 

A radiologist is a medical doctor who uses imaging tests to help diagnose disease. The responsibilities of a diagnostic radiologist including reviewing and interpreting the results of imaging tests.

Rehabilitation therapist, such as physical, occupational, speech, or recreational therapists. 

These professionals help people with cancer return to their highest level of functioning. For example, they can help people regain speech, mobility, and everyday tasks if treatment has affected their functioning

Mental health professionals.

 These are professionals who have special training to provide counseling services and include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and licensed counselors.

Questions to ask about your health care team

  • What different types of professionals will be part of my cancer care team?
  • How can each person help me during my treatment? After treatment?
  • Are my cancer care team members all at the same hospital/center or at different locations?
  • Which doctor will lead my overall cancer treatment?
  • Is there one person I should contact with any questions I have? How can I get in touch with the different professionals on my team?
  • If I experience a new side effect or a change in how I’m feeling, who should I tell?
  • Are there specific symptoms and side effects I should alert my team about right away?
  • What is the best way to get in touch with my cancer care team in an emergency?
  • Who can help me cope with the stress and emotions of cancer?
  • What is my health insurance coverage for different medical services? If I’m concerned with the costs of cancer care, who can help me?

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