Your healthcare team
Cancer treatment often involves a team of different healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, social workers and others.
Your healthcare team is there to treat your cancer and to help you and your family. Among other things, they can:
- provide information about cancer
- help you manage side effects and emotions
- give you emotional support
- help you find your way through the healthcare system
- suggest services in the community for practical help or emotional support
You are the most important part of your healthcare team. Stay involved with your team by keeping track of and sharing information about side effects and how you are coping. Some of the people below will be members of your healthcare team.
Anesthesiologist, or anesthetist
This doctor gives anesthetics (drugs that cause a loss of feeling or awareness) to prevent or relieve pain during surgery and other procedures done in the hospital.
A dietitian teaches you about healthy eating and helps with eating problems that may be a side effect of cancer treatment.
Family doctor (general practitioner, GP)
A family doctor gives general, primary care and plays an important part in a person’s general healthcare before, during and after cancer treatments.
This doctor specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy or supportive therapy. A medical oncologist is often the main doctor for someone with cancer. They give supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists.
Nurses give daily nursing care in the hospital or at home and often have the most contact with you. Nurses can answer questions and give you medicine and emotional support.
Occupational therapists help you maintain your daily activities. They can help you return to work and adjust your work activities. They can also make suggestions to modify your home while you have treatment or deal with side effects.
This type of doctor specializes in the treatment of cancer. Oncologists have received special training in surgery, radiation therapy or treating cancer using medicines such as chemotherapy drugs.
An oncology nurse has received special education to care for people with cancer. Oncology nurses may work in chemotherapy departments, radiation therapy departments, bone marrow transplant units, in-patient oncology units or the community. An oncology nurse will help you meet your physical and emotional needs and can connect you with the resources you may require.
Oncology nurse practitioner
An oncology nurse practitioner provides care to people with cancer and is involved in research, teaching, leadership and administration.
A pathologist is a doctor who studies cells and tissues under a microscope to make a diagnosis of cancer or to see how cancer is responding to treatment.
A patient or client advocate helps you communicate or work better with others involved in your care, such as doctors, nurses or social workers.
A patient or nurse navigator acts as a link between you and the healthcare system. They may coordinate services and address a variety of physical, social, emotional and practical needs.
Pharmacists prepare cancer drugs and other medicines and explain how they work. A pharmacist will tell you how often to take your drugs. They also explain any care you need to take such as eating certain foods or things to avoid while taking a drug. A pharmacist also tells you about side effects and how to deal with them.
Physiotherapists, or physical therapists, help you maintain or restore a level of fitness through strength and endurance exercises. They teach exercises and physical activities to keep muscles strong and flexible or restore strength and movement.
A plastic surgeon is a doctor who specializes in reconstructive surgery to reduce scarring, prevent disfigurement or improve appearance.
Psychologist or psychiatrist
Psychologists and psychiatrists help you and your family understand, manage and cope with feelings, emotions, thoughts, worries and behaviours. They teach you how to manage pain, stress and anxiety, or worrying.
Radiation oncologists are doctors who specialize in the treatment of cancer using radiation. A radiation oncologist will develop your treatment plan.
A radiation therapist helps plan and deliver your treatment and manage side effects.
Radiologists are doctors who read and interpret x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs and other scans to diagnose diseases. A radiologist performs biopsies guided by x-rays or ultrasound.
A social worker talks with you and your family about emotional or physical needs and can provide or refer you to support services like counselling, support groups, financial help and other resources.
Spiritual care worker
Spiritual care workers offer support and prayer according to your spiritual and religious needs.
A surgeon is a doctor who performs biopsies or surgery.
A surgical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in performing biopsies and surgeries or other procedures involved in diagnosing or treating cancer.
Technical staff take blood samples and perform x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans and MRIs. They also test blood and other samples.
A drug that causes anesthesia (the loss of some or all feeling or awareness).
General anesthetics put a person to sleep. Regional anesthetics cause a loss of feeling in a part of the body, such as an arm or leg, but the person does not lose awareness. Local anesthetics numb only a small area of the body.
Making progress in the cancer fight
The 5-year cancer survival rate has increased from 25% in the 1940s to 60% today.