The Cancer Care Team – An Introduction


[music] It’s very common to have a team of doctors
that will take care of you over the course of your illness if you’re just recently
diagnosed with cancer. That really applies for people who get the
most common cancers, be they of the breast or lung, prostate, colon and what have you. There are different kinds of oncologists who
may be a part of a patient’s cancer care team. This includes medical oncologists, who treat
cancer using medications and other agents; and radiation oncologists, who treat cancer
with radiation therapy; and surgical oncologists, who treat cancer using surgery. Pediatric oncologists specialize in the care
of children who have cancer, and there are some oncologists who specialize in the care
of women who have specific cancers. And they’re called gynecologic oncologists. And dermatologists can be involved in the
care of patients who have skin cancers. In addition to oncology specialists, there
are often a number of other kinds of doctors involved in the care of patients who have
just been diagnosed with cancer. And this can include pathologists who help
determine what kind of cancer a patient has; and radiologists, who can look at images such
as X-rays and other kinds of studies to see where the cancer might be in the body; a palliative
medicine specialist, who will help a patient with symptoms, managing symptoms and helping
prevent symptoms; and internal medicine doctors or other specialists. I often see that the medical oncologist takes
the helm and will engage the other services as they’re necessary throughout the patient’s
care. There are a number of other healthcare providers,
many of whom are equal or of even more importance over the course of one’s treatment and that
involves nursing staff, nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, phlebotomists, people
who are actually delivering that care. And it’s critical that this entire team
can work together in a coordinated fashion to deliver that best possible care. Some of the members of a patient’s care
team, once diagnosed with cancer, can include nurses, who help identify and manage symptoms
a patient may be having. They give medications, including chemotherapy,
if that is within a patients’ treatment regimen. They provide education, and they help coordinate
research activity. PAs and nurse practitioners perform assessments
and evaluations of patients, and recommend and review tests. They provide recommendations for treatments,
and also provide patient education and counseling. I do explain to my patients, you know, even
if you’re not seeing your doctor, you’re seeing me and everything we do today will
also be, you know, relayed to your doctor and we make decisions together, not just me
on my own, and we’re always here as a team. Cancer care is a complicated thing and it
really does require a lot of professionals who are experts in different areas of care. That might involve people who are involved
in nutrition, for example, to make sure that the diet that someone is getting over the
course of their therapy is appropriate. A social worker is absolutely critical. Oftentimes in that transition between inpatient
care in the hospital to outpatient care they’re deeply involved in making sure that the follow-up
care is appropriate and that things will flow smoothly from the hospital to the outpatient
setting and vice versa. There’s certainly our outpatient staff such
as social workers who also help in that context as well. When it comes to emotional needs, it’s obvious
that a new cancer diagnosis involves the whole family. So, there are a variety of supports that are
available be it from nursing staff; obviously the other clinical staff. Social workers are very important in that
respect as well. Happily and increasingly, the social workers
are engaged very early on because, you know, we’ve been doing this for a while. We understand that this is a serious situation
and we want to make it better, and how do you get your head around all these new things
that are happening to you. It’s a very difficult scenario. And so, with the social workers, we have support
groups as well as lot of education, which is pushed out now very early on in someone’s
care to make sure that you’re mentally able to contend with everything that you’ve never
experienced before. The whole team has to communicate with one
another. If these parts don’t speak with one another,
then the gears just don’t mesh and the care is not optimal. So, how does that manifest itself? In a lot of centers, there’ll be something
called a multidisciplinary tumor board. And at these tumor boards, someone with a
new diagnosis or a change in their diagnostic level, if they go from primary disease to
metastatic disease, they need a change in their care plan. And sitting around a table will be the nursing
staff and the nutritionist and the radiologists and the radiation oncologists, surgeons and
medical oncologists. All of them are hearing about these changes
in the situation for one person or another, and it’s up for that team sitting together
to really come up with a good plan of action. And that’s really the most efficient way
for care to be delivered by all of these different team members is in a unified multidisciplinary
tumor board. The oncology team is outlined very well in
a section on our website, Cancer.Net, which provides both information on some of these
general topics that involve cancer, but also very specific information on each of the different
subtypes of cancer, of which there are very many. That detailed information is patient friendly. It’s pretty easy to read, and also gives
you some pointers as other places to potentially go to get some more information from there. [music]

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