Finding the right treatment for your type of cancer depends on many things. These
might be your type of cancer, your age, or if you have another medical illness.
It involves input from many doctors who provide care based on your personal need.
A full treatment team may include an oncologist, pathologist, surgeon and nurse.
Here you can learn about the role each member of the treatment team may play in
An oncologist is a doctor who cares for and treats people who have cancer. He or
she may focus on a certain type of cancer treatment.1
For example, a medical or surgical oncologist will manage your treatment plan.2 A radiation oncologist uses radiation to diagnose
and treat cancer.2 An oncologist also can specialize
in a specific type of cancer, such as breast or pancreatic cancer.
You usually see an oncologist after being told you have cancer. This doctor might
manage how you are treated. He or she also may refer you to other specialists. This
might include a pathologist or a surgeon. Oncologists can answer your questions
about biomarker testing and targeted treatment.
Once an oncologist tests for cancer, he or she works with a pathologist to find
out the results. A pathologist is a doctor who finds diseases by studying cells
and tissues under a microscope.3 This doctor also
might perform tests to learn a tumor's specific makeup, including whether there
are any biomarkers. He or she may test for biomarkers using a tissue sample known
as a biopsy. This is a portion of a tumor that is removed by a surgeon or oncologist.
Whether this doctor spots a biomarker or not, he or she will talk to your oncologist.
A surgeon is a doctor who operates on a patient. A surgeon who operates on cancers
and tumors is called a surgical oncologist. The surgeon removes the cancer and the
appropriate amount of normal tissue in the surrounding organ(s). Some surgeons may
focus on one area of the body, such as the breast, lungs or brain. The medical oncologist
may talk to the surgeon or surgical oncologist to find out if surgery is needed.
They also will find out how much of the tumor should be removed. Together, they
will decide if you should be given any cancer drugs before or after surgery.
A radiologist is a doctor who specializes in creating and interpreting pictures
of areas inside the body.5 An interventional radiologist
is a doctor who may administer a cancer treatment directly to the tumor using
wires and small tubes called catheters.6 They can
also perform a needle biopsy to obtain a sample of your tumor tissue.6
An oncology nurse is a registered nurse who is trained to help and provide care
to people with cancer.7 You might see an oncology
nurse more than anyone else on your treatment team. The oncology nurse monitors
the health of a patient during treatment, whether at home or at a special clinic.
These nurses help carry out the treatment plan chosen by the oncologist or treatment
team. They may give you cancer medicines and observe your daily progress. An oncology
nurse can update the oncologist on how well you are doing on treatment.
You may also visit with other professionals in your treatment team, like social
workers, physician assistants, rehabilitation therapists or dietitians.