Your cancer team is made up of many members and may include surgeons, radiologists and technicians, pathologists, oncologists (radiation, medical, and gynecological), radiation therapists, chemotherapy-infusion nurses, oncology nurse navigators or other navigators, nursing support staff, rehabilitation specialists (nutritionists, physical, occupational, lymphedema, and speech/ swallowing therapists), pharmacists and pharmacy eligibility advocates, and licensed clinical social workers.
The members of your cancer team may be located in the hospital setting or in the outpatient cancer center. Although their titles and job descriptions may vary, the core role of each team member is to provide care and emotional support for patients with cancer and their families during the entire cancer journey.
Within the cancer care setting, the navigator, who is often an oncology nurse navigator plays a pivotal role in assessing and removing barriers to care, including transportation, financial, nutritional, emotional, or spiritual issues.
Your navigator functions as your advocate and will provide education regarding your disease process, treatment options and plan, how to deal with side effects, and survivorship care. The navigator, or the oncology nurse navigator, works closely with your healthcare team to coordinate your personal care, facilitate communication among the team members, and act as a liaison and a patient advocate.
Medical/Radiation Oncologists, Surgeons
Surgeons, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists are instrumental in your diagnosis, treatment planning, the direction of your treatment, and any follow-up care.
Radiation therapists and chemotherapy-infusion nurses administer the patient’s individual treatment under the direction of the oncologist, while also providing education and support to each patient during treatment.
Nutritionists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, lymphedema specialists, and speech/swallowing therapists provide a variety of services, therapies, and education to assist patients to regain and maintain optimal functioning.
Pharmacists and pharmacy eligibility advocates provide expertise in the safe use of prescription drugs, and can assist you if you need financial support to pay for any drugs and other cancer therapies.
Licensed clinical social workers provide assistance to patients with cancer and their families regarding any psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual issues. They can provide you with skills that will help you to cope with and adjust to your illness, and help during the transitions in care, as well as with decision-making.
Social workers also work closely with the navigators or the oncology nurse navigators to find resources in the community and in the healthcare system to deal with any practical needs such as transportation, work situation, and financial difficulties.
Social workers and oncology nurse navigators often collaborate to facilitate support groups that provide emotional support, develop coping skills, and to empower patients and their families along the cancer journey.
Working With Your Care Team
Patients with cancer and their families do not have to make the cancer journey alone. The members of your cancer team are there to provide you with care, comfort, and support. Call upon your cancer team members for assistance with all your needs, including:
- Support groups
- Financial support
- Emotional support
- Family issues
- Cancer therapy side effects— and more.
Your navigator can recommend the appropriate team member for any specific need and help you overcome any barriers to your care.