As a partner in your own care, choosing the right cancer care team, beginning with your oncologist (a doctor who is a cancer specialist), is the first step. Many other doctors, nurses and specialists will likely also be involved in your care, and understanding their roles will help as you decide how to proceed with your care. It is very important that you feel comfortable talking to members of your cancer care team. You have the right to ask questions, discuss your treatment options, and openly express your concerns, emotions and wishes.
Looking for a doctor, or need a second opinion? Use the online Find a Lung Cancer Specialist tool to get started.
Your treatment options will depend on the type and stage of your disease. Your cancer care team will develop a detailed treatment plan for you, taking into consideration your cancer as well as your other health needs.
A variety of specialists may be included in your cancer care team:
A medical oncologist will prescribe the drugs, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy agents and supportive care treatments that are needed to help treat your cancer and manage your symptoms.
A thoracic oncologist specializes in treating lung cancer patients.
A radiation oncologist uses concentrated x-rays to eliminate cancer cells. Radiation and medical oncologists often work together to determine and carry out treatment plans.
A thoracic surgeon has special training to remove or operate on lung cancer tumors. If there is not a thoracic surgeon available in your area, ask which nearby surgeon performs the most lung cancer surgeries.
Palliative care specialists may provide care and support as you and your loved ones face the challenges of living with cancer. These doctors and nurses can help you sort through information to make medical decisions; assist with making plans for living well during and after your cancer treatment; or prescribe treatments to control pain, issues with breathing, or other uncomfortable symptoms. These specialists can also help you and your loved ones find the emotional and spiritual support you may need.
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are specially trained to provide you with medical care ranging from preventive care and physical exams to ordering tests and prescribing certain medications. They work with your doctors to check on your overall health and how you are responding to your treatment(s). They can help you manage the symptoms of your cancer and any side effects of your treatments.
Oncology nurses are specially trained in the care of cancer patients. Working with your doctors, they will carefully check your progress as partners in your journey with lung cancer. Oncology nurses may also give you the drugs your doctors prescribe. If you are part of a clinical trial testing a new treatment, research nurses will help check on you and take any concerns or questions to your doctor. They also help collect information needed for the clinical trial.
Oncology social workers provide counseling and support. They often work with oncology nurses and palliative care specialists to address your specific needs and connect you with useful resources in addition to medical treatment. For example, a social worker may help you and your family find a place to stay during treatment if your cancer center is far from home. A social worker might also help you with payment or other financial issues that you may face as a result of your cancer.
Patient navigators help coordinate care with the many different people on your team. They may help ensure that your tests get ordered or appointments scheduled, work with your insurance on any questions that come up or help you find emotional, financial or other support services. Nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers or others may act as patient navigators. Your patient navigator is often your key contact when you have questions or problems.
Depending on your needs, other specialists could be part of your cancer team. A nutritionist can discuss foods and supplements that will help keep you healthy while you are in treatment. A psychologist can help you and your family deal with the emotions surrounding your cancer diagnosis and treatment. Your lung cancer care may be coordinated by a case manager, and a respiratory therapist or pulmonologist can help if you have trouble breathing. Even though you will be seeing specialists for your cancer treatment, you will still need regular medical care from someone overseeing your general health. Your primary care physician (PCP) should be kept informed about your condition and updated about your cancer treatment. For the best care, your oncologist and PCP should work together as a team. This communication is usually done with written reports sent to your PCP after you visit your cancer care team.
The Personalized Care Plan is a guide for every lung cancer patient, no matter where their journey takes them. Use this resource to record information on your diagnosis, track treatments and appointments, monitor symptoms and more.
This information is not designed to be a substitute for medical advice provided by your treatment team.
Last updated 2/2014
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