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Meet the Team

An array of medical professionals are likely to be part of a patient's healthcare team.

BY Maureen Salamon
PUBLISHED March 14, 2013

An array of medical professionals are likely to be part of a patient’s healthcare team. Here’s a rundown of the roster:

> Medical oncologists treat cancer with chemotherapy, biologic therapies or other types of cancer-fighting drugs, and sometimes specialize in one or more specific malignancies.

> Surgical oncologists use surgical procedures to remove tumors or portions of tumors, and often specialize in surgery at one region, such as the brain or spinal cord, or organ system, such as the digestive organs.

Radiation oncologists use radiation therapies to treat cancer. They determine the dose, schedule and type of radiation necessary, and manage physicists and radiation technologists who calculate the doses and fields, and who operate radiation equipment.

Pediatric oncologists specialize in treating cancers in children and teens, sometimes in patients up to age 20.

Gynecologic oncologists diagnose and treat cancers of women’s reproductive organs and are usually trained in surgery and chemotherapy administration.

Diagnostic radiologists diagnose cancers using imaging tests, such as mammograms, ultrasounds, X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans and PET scans.

Interventional radiologists use imaging scans, such as ultrasound, CT and MRI, to obtain biopsies or to guide treatment delivery directly to tumors, including those that use heat, cold or radioactive beads to kill malignant cells or hinder blood supply to a tumor.

Pathologists classify different types of cancer by studying cells and tissues under a microscope and use special tests to study proteins and genes on cells. Their diagnosis typically plays a large role in the choice of treatment(s) pursued.

General surgeons perform operations for many reasons, not strictly to treat cancer.

Oncology nurses, infusion nurses and nurse practitioners provide handson care for patients and may see them independent of doctors.

Essential players

A host of other medical professionals collaborate with physicians and other major figures on the healthcare team, including:

Patient navigators help guide patients and families through the treatment process.

Oncology clinical pharmacists dispense oral anticancer treatments and medications to reduce treatment side effects and are involved in patient education.

Physician assistants conduct some tests, prescribe medications and perform certain procedures.

Dietitians help manage the nutritional aspects related to cancer care.

Oncology social workers provide counseling, advocacy and referrals for financial, spiritual and mental health needs.

Genetic counselors help patients understand their genetic risk for a disease, their options for genetic testing and treatment choices, and preventive measures.

Home health aides provide care and medications in patients’ homes.

Occupational and physical therapists use exercise and therapy to help patients relearn daily activities or restore lost physical strength, mobility and function.

Palliative care specialists alleviate pain and other symptoms, and can help manage quality of life at any stage of cancer.

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