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Your cancer care team
7 specialists you can expect to see

How to choose a cancer doctor

Selecting your oncologist or treatment facility is an important first step in treating your illness. Although you may be eager to begin treatment right away, most cancers do not grow very quickly. Take a little time to gather information and choose the right professional or center for you. Ask your primary care physician for a referral. You may already know of a cancer specialist through a family member or friend. After you’ve found a physician, do seek a second opinion. Try some of the following resources to locate the right healthcare provider for you:

Questions to ask a potential doctor

  • What is my outlook or prognosis as you see it?
  • What treatment do you suggest and why?
  • Are there other treatments I should consider?
  • If I choose to have a second opinion, will you arrange for my test results to be sent to another doctor?
  • Should I consider taking part in a clinical trial?

Cancer can be a complicated illness and fighting the disease requires the expertise of many specialists. Think of these professionals as your cancer care team. Each one plays a specific role in your treatment, care and support. During treatment, you may see several of the following:

Oncologist. This physician specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Throughout your treatment, you may see more than one oncologist. Some may specialize in a certain type of treatment. A surgical oncologist, for example, would use surgical techniques, while a radiation oncologist would be responsible for the radiation portion of your treatment. Other oncologists may specialize in the type of cancer, such as skin, colon or blood.

Oncology nurse. This professional has an advanced degree and training in the care of people with cancer. Depending on the specific credentials, your nurse may provide direct patient or family care, supervise staff aiding your care and help educate you and your family about your illness and treatment.

Pain specialists. These experts in pain management may include professionals like your oncologist, a neurologist, anesthesiologist and other doctors, nurses and pharmacists. Your cancer care center may have a team of experts to handle pain control.

Dietitian. A registered dietitian is a specially trained nutrition expert who can help you with eating problems, weight management and exercise issues that may be associated with your cancer.

Psychologist. This health professional may counsel you to help you cope with anxiety, depression or emotional problems associated with the illness or its treatment.

Psychiatrist. This is a medical doctor who can provide counseling and prescribe treatments.

Social worker. This expert can help you and your family by arranging for counseling, home care assistance or other needs and guiding you through insurance problems and social, emotional or other issues.

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