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Beating Cancer: Who’s Who on Your Healthcare Team

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, your treatment will likely be guided by a number of experts, including doctors, nurses, dietitians, therapists and others. This team approach gives you access to several specialists’ knowledge and experience from a variety of disciplines. Here’s a look at some of your team members and the roles they play in your care:

  • Oncologist. This physician specializes in the care of people with cancer. Your oncologist is the doctor who explains your diagnosis and disease stage and plans your treatment. Because your treatment may involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, your team may include medical, surgical and radiation oncologists, too. Your team will likely be headed and managed by one oncologist to coordinate your medical care; monitor and evaluate tests, exams and treatments performed by other specialists; assess your cancer’s response; and collaborate with your other healthcare providers.
  • Nurse navigators. These registered nurses (some of whom have advanced practice degrees) provide your direct care, administer chemotherapy, assist with pain management, educate you and your family and help you manage your disease and relieve symptoms.
  • Social workers. These individuals typically have a college degree in social work plus special training and experience in cancer care. An oncology social worker will understand how your cancer affects you, your family and your relationships. A social worker can counsel you and help you address emotional, spiritual, financial and practical issues. He or she can also help with discharge planning and link you with needed resources such as transportation, home medical equipment or health aides.
  • Dietitian. This expert helps people with cancer meet their nutritional needs. You may meet with a dietitian to help you plan menus, choose foods, manage side effects and overcome eating problems.
  • Rehabilitation therapist. A physical, occupational, speech or recreational therapist can help you regain and improve your strength, function and independence.
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