Cancer is an extremely complicated and difficult disease to battle, which is no secret. Accordingly, treatment plans have advanced to match the level of complication, which can create confusion for the patient and their loved ones.
If you or a loved one is battling against cancer, then you already know that you don’t need any unnecessary stress in the process. Since your treatment team will likely include many members, it can be overwhelming knowing who does what and who you need to know.
So, to help a little, we’ve compiled a list of all of the people you are likely to meet during the treatment process to hopefully lessen any confusion. Here it is.
Radiation Oncologist – This is the doctor who will ultimately determine the specific type of treatment you undergo and how often you undergo it to best fit your particular circumstances. The radiation oncologist will work closely with all of the other doctors and health care workers on your health team to make these determinations.
Radiation Physicist – This individual will ensure that the equipment used in your treatments is working properly and they will make sure that the machine is delivering the correct amount of radiation for your treatment. The physicist will work closely with the radiation oncologist who planned your treatment.
Dosimetrist – Working under the direction of both the radiation oncologist and the physicist, the dosimetrist will calculate the amount of radiation to be delivered to the cancerous area and the surrounding healthy tissue.
Radiation Therapist/Radiation Therapy Technologist – Under the direct guidance of the radiation oncologist and with direction from the dosimetrist, the radiation therapy technologist is the person who actually delivers the prescribed dose of radiation.
Radiation Nurse/Oncology Nurse – This nurse will help you directly when it comes to understanding the various steps involved in your treatment and other important information about your cancer. This is also the person who will help you most when it comes to managing side effects. The nurse is most likely the individual who will guide you through setting up the visits with the other members of the health care team when needed.
Other Possible Team Members:
Physician Assistant – The physician assistant, or PA, is a certified and licensed medical professional with a master’s or doctoral level degree. Physician assistants usually practice and prescribe the medicine on teams with doctors and other health care professionals. They may specialize in certain diseases or fields of medicine depending on their training and experience, but they usually offer a wide range of services on the team.
Dietitian – The dietitian, usually a registered dietitian (RD), is an expert in the area of nutrition, food, and diet. With a bachelor’s degree and certification from a national board exam, the dietitian will help you in areas such as weight management, exercise, and cardiac rehabilitation as well as just ensuring your general health through treatment.
Physical Therapist – Your PT, a licensed health professional who has at least a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, will help examine, test, and treat any possible physical problems by using exercises, heat, cold, and other methods to restore and/or maintain your body’s strength, mobility, and function.
Social Worker – A social worker in these circumstances is a health professional with special training in dealing with social, emotional, and environmental problems that may come with illness or disability. Your social worker may help you people find community resources and support services while also providing counseling and guidance to help with issues such as insurance coverage, nursing home placement, and emotional distress.
At the end of the day, your treatment team will depend on a few things including where you undergo your treatment and the members of that center as well as your individual circumstances. But, regardless, you will work with a team of various medical professionals and experts similar to the list above.
These specialists will do use their different skills to help you get the best treatment they can. Additionally, despite having different specialties, do not be hesitant when it comes to asking them questions. You can always ask any one of them your different questions along the way, and if they don’t have the answer they can certainly point you in the right direction toward someone who can answer.