People in Health Care
Most cancer patients have a team of health care providers who work together to help them. This team may include doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, dietitians, and other people in health care. Chances are that you will never see all of these people at the same time. In fact, there may be health care providers on your team who you never meet.
While most people have two or more doctors, chances are you will see one doctor most often. An oncologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats cancer. This doctor is the leader of your treatment team, who will meet and work closely with all of your health care providers. It’s important to let your doctor know how you’re feeling so your team can figure out whether you’re getting better or worse, decide if other drugs or treatments are needed, and ensure that you get the extra support you need.
Most likely, you will see nurses more often than other people on your treatment team. Besides giving medical care, nurses can answer questions, and offer hope and support. They may also suggest ways to talk with family and friends about your feelings. Nurses work with all other health care providers on your treatment team.
You may also see nurse practitioners (NP) for your care. Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have additional education and training in how to diagnose and treat disease. In cancer care, a nurse practitioner may help manage the primary care of patients and their families
Pharmacists not only fill your prescriptions but also teach you about the drugs you’re taking (proper usage, side effects, foods to avoid, and warnings about sun exposure and the dangers of mixing drugs).
Physician assistants, commonly called PAs, are health professionals licensed to do certain medical procedures under the guidance of a doctor. They may take medical histories, do physical exams, take blood and urine samples, care for wounds, and give injections and immunizations.
People with cancer often have trouble eating or digesting food. These problems can be a side effect of cancer drugs or treatments. Dietitians can help by teaching you about foods that are healthy, taste good, and are easy to eat.
Oncology Social Workers
Oncology social workers are trained to counsel you about ways to cope with the emotional and physical issues related to your cancer. They can also tell you about other resources that can help you deal with your cancer, such as community programs and support materials. In addition, they can connect you with financial, legal, and insurance services in your area.
Psychologists can talk to you and your family about your worries and teach you ways to cope with these feelings and concerns. Let your doctor or nurse know if you want to talk with a psychologist who is trained to help people with cancer. Many social workers can also fill this role.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who diagnose and prescribe drugs for mental and emotional disorders. They can also talk with you about your feelings and help you find the mental health services you need.
Licensed Counselors and Other Mental Health Professionals
Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), pastoral care professionals, spiritual leaders, and other mental health counselors and professionals can help people deal with their feelings, worries, and concerns. Talk with your doctor or contact your local cancer center to find mental health professionals near you.
Patient or health educators help you and your family learn more about your cancer by finding information that fits your needs. Patient educators typically run the resource centers in hospitals and treatment centers. They can offer you tools to help you and your family understand your type of cancer, your treatment choices, and side effects. They can also give you tips for living with and beyond your cancer. Ask your doctor or nurse about talking to a patient educator.
Patient navigators help guide a patient through the healthcare system. This may include help going through the screening, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care of cancer. They can help you talk to your doctor so you can get the information you need to make health care decisions. Patient navigators may also help set up appointments for doctor visits and medical tests and get financial, legal, and social support. They may also work with insurance companies, employers, case managers, lawyers, and others who may affect one's healthcare needs. Also called patient advocates.
Occupational therapists can help you regain, develop, and build skills that are important for day-to-day living. They can help you relearn how to do daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, or feeding yourself, after cancer treatment.
Physical therapists are trained to understand how different parts of your body work together. They can teach you about proper exercises and body motions that can help you gain strength and move better after treatment. They can also advise you about proper postures that help prevent injuries.
Speech therapists can evaluate and treat any speech, language, or swallowing problems you may have after treatment.