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Understanding Your Cancer Care Team at Maryland Oncology
Patients who have been diagnosed with cancer or a blood disorder may need to meet with several different care specialists during treatment and recovery. This guide should help make it easier to understand the role that each person may play in cancer care.
Medical oncologist: A doctor who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy, and/or targeted therapy, as appropriate for each patient’s situation. A medical oncologist often serves in the role of the main health care provider for a patient undergoing cancer treatment. A medical oncologist also gives supportive care and may coordinate cancer treatments given by other specialists.
Hematologist: A hematologist is a physician who specializes in disorders of the blood, bone marrow, and lymphatic systems. Most hematologists are also board certified in oncology and can treat many types of cancers, including blood cancers.
Radiation oncologist: A doctor who has special training in using various types of external and/or internal radiation to treat cancer. Radiation oncologists often work with a medical dosimetrist and/or a medical physicist to ensure treatment plans are uniquely tailored to both the patient and their cancer. Gynecologic oncologist: An oncologist who specializes in the diagnosing and treating cancers of the female reproductive organs, including ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, cervical cancer, and vulvar cancer. In most cases, the gynecologic oncologist will perform any surgery required for these types of cancer, as well as serve in the role of cancer treatment coordinator for their patients,bringing in other team members as needed.
Breast Surgeon – ADD
Colorectal Surgeon – ADD
Advanced Practice Providers (APP)
Nurse practitioner: Also called an advanced practice nurse, APN, or NP, this is a registered nurse who has additional education and training in how to diagnose and treat disease. Nurse practitioners are licensed at the state level and certified by national nursing organizations. Seeing an NP is similar to seeing a doctor in some cases. In cancer care, a nurse practitioner may manage the primary care of patients based on a practice agreement with a doctor.
Physician assistant: Physician assistants, also known as PAs, operate under the supervision of a doctor but share many of the same responsibilities of a medical doctor, with the exception of a few major procedures (including surgery). They practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers. They’ll examine, diagnose, and treat patients in the same way a physician would, making them a valuable part of the cancer care team.
Nurse navigator: Sometimes referred to as a patient navigator or a patient advocate, a nurse navigator is a nurse who helps guide cancer patients through the healthcare system. Genetic counselor: A specialist who assesses individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. They provide information and support to other healthcare providers, or to individuals and families concerned with the risk of inherited conditions, such as cancer.
Social worker: A professional trained to talk with people and their families about emotional or physical needs, and to find them support services and the appropriate community resources. Some of the needs that social workers will commonly identify and assist with include: Registered dietitian: A registered dietitian is an important part of the cancer care team, helping with cancer treatment and recovery. A dietitian will work with patients, their families, and the rest of the medical team to manage the patient’s diet during and after cancer treatment.