Who’s Who on Your Medical Care Team / Who Can You Count on for Help?
This is a list of medical professionals that are available and likely to be on your healthcare team once you are diagnosed – so you know who they are, what support they provide, and how they can help you. This information can help you be aware of who you can reach out to for help at various stages of your treatment:
Diagnostic Radiologist – The trained physician who diagnoses cancer using imaging tests such as mammograms, ultrasounds, X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, PET/CT scans.
Interventional Radiologist – Using imaging scans to obtain biopsies or to guide treatment delivery directly to tumors, including those who use heat, cold, or radioactive beads to kill malignant cells or hinder blood supply to a tumor.
Note: Steriotactic deliver of treatment is starting to be used, according to Dana Farber Cancer Institute. More on that soon.
Pathologist – Reviews tumor tissue stains/samples to classify different types of cancer by studying the cells and tissues under the microscope, using special tests to study proteins and genes on the cells. The pathologist’s diagnosis is key to the official diagnosis and ultimate treatment plan to be pursued by the medical oncologist.
Medical Oncologist – Reviews the pathologist’s diagnosis and sets the treatment plan in motion – i.e. chemotherapy, radiation prior to chemotherapy if deemed appropriate, or targeted drug therapies.
Note: You want to make sure you select a medical oncologist who specializes in SARCOMA and especially one who has extensive experience in treating Leiomyosarcoma (LMS).
Surgical Oncologist – The surgical oncologist and the medical oncologist coordinate the treatment plan based on the case they are dealing with. Surgical procedures to remove tumors, with wide margin resection, is the usual first-line treatment component for LMS, depending on the case.
Gynecologic Oncologist – May be a specialist in treatment of cancer found in the female reproductive organs, and usually trained in surgery and treatment (chemotherapy) administration.
Oncology Nurses, Infusion Nurses, Nurse Practitioners – Provide hands- on care for patients and may seem independent from the medical oncologist. Collaboration, of course, is key.
Genetic Counselors – Help patients understand their genetic risks for diseases, their options for genetic testing and treatment choices, and preventative measures. There should be coordination/collaboration with the medical oncologist/surgical oncologist.
Other Essential Team Members:
Patient Navigators – Help guide patients and families through the treatment process. They also provide information on best facilities for patient rehabilitation after a hospital stay if needed and home health care professional services.
Oncology Clinical Pharmacists – Dispense oral anticancer treatments and medications to reduce treatment side effects and provide patient education regarding the medications.
Physician Assistants – Conduct routine tests and certain routine procedures.
Dietitians – Help manage the nutritional aspects related to cancer care.
Note: An Integrative Medicine Department – All cancer hospital/treatment centers should have this resource, where patients can learn more about the best diet strategy/plan that fits their needs during and after treatment. This is an important area for patients and dietitians/integrative medicine physicians to be in partnership and provide the necessary guidance.
Oncology Social Workers – Provide counseling, advocacy, and referrals for financial, insurance, and mental health needs. Finding the right resource for the questions and guidance you need is imperative. A social worker should provide the best resources available to provide the necessary support for finding answers to questions.
Home Health Aides– Provide care and medications in patients’ homes after a hospital or rehabilitation stay.
Occupational and Physical Therapy – Therapists evaluating a patient’s physical capabilities and history of treatment can establish an appropriate exercise and therapy plan to help patients be restored to a quality of life that involves improved strength, mobility, and function.
Palliative Care Specialist – Alleviates pain and other symptoms, and can help manage the quality of life at any stage of cancer.