Cancer Treatment - The Cancer Treatment Team

What kinds of specialists treat persons with cancer?

Your cancer treatment may involve several types of healthcare professionals who, with you, form the "cancer care team." The multidisciplinary cancer team may include, but is not limited to, the following team members:

  • Surgeon
    Once you have been diagnosed, you may see a surgeon, a doctor who specializes in performing operations to treat diseases. The surgeon, in turn, may refer you to an oncologist - a physician with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
  • Oncologist
    Oncologists may be known as medical oncologists, who treat cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy, or radiation oncologists, who treat cancer with radiation therapy. Your oncologist will work with you to create a treatment plan. He/she usually acts as the coordinator of your cancer care.
  • Oncology nurses
    Oncology nurses have special training in cancer and caring for patients during treatment. They will help carry out the treatment plan your oncologist creates and will help to guide patients though treatment with activities such as giving cancer medications, checking your progress, and answering your questions about treatment. If you are undergoing chemotherapy, oncology nurses will monitor any side effects.
  • Social workers
    Social workers may provide counsel to you and your family, help you understand your diagnosis and treatment, and assist you in finding support groups or other cancer-related services.
  • Psychiatrists and psychologists
    Psychiatrists and psychologists are specialists that can help if you have problems with depression or mental health. Cancer can be difficult for anyone to cope with, so make sure to seek help if necessary. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications such as antidepressants. Both specialists can help patients with counseling and other depression treatment methods.
  • Rehabilitation specialists
    People with cancer sometimes need help recovering after treatment. Physical therapists, speech therapists, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, and others can be helpful to many patients, depending on the type of cancer and treatment.
  • Dietitians
    Cancer and cancer treatment can make eating difficult. Some people lose weight or have trouble eating foods that provide the right energy. Registered dietitians (RD) help people maintain healthy eating habits during and after cancer treatment.
  • Home health aides
    Home health aides specialize in helping patients manage tasks at home during treatment, and may help with everyday chores, such as cooking food or cleaning.

Other important specialists that may be involved in the treatment process include the following:

  • Hematologists
    Physicians who specialize in the functions and disorders of blood.
  • Radiologists
    Physicians who specialize in diagnosing diseases by interpreting (reading) x-rays and other types of imaging tests.
  • Pathologists
    Physicians who specialize in diagnosis and classification of diseases by laboratory tests.
  • Lab technicians, radiation technicians, and pharmacists

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