Many healthcare professionals will be involved in your care during your lymphoma treatment. Teamwork among different healthcare professionals is important in cancer treatment. By working together they can share information about your care.
You too are a member of your healthcare team. You are the most important member. Your healthcare team works together to treat your cancer but they also provide you with information you need to help you make treatment decisions. In addition, they provide you and your family with any support you might need before, during and after your treatment.
Your cancer care team will recommend treatment options and talk to you about the choices that are available to you. Before deciding on treatment they will consider:
- The exact type, stage and grade of your lymphoma
- Your age
- Your general health status
- Any other medical problems you may have
- Your personal wishes and input.
All of this information is important in deciding which treatment option is best for you. Each practitioner is explained here to help you understand their unique roles, and how they can best help you. Please note that not all of these people will be a part of your cancer care team because each cancer patient is an individual. Healthcare teams are not the same for every cancer patient.
One thing you should always remember is that your healthcare team is there to help you. You will find that they are your best source of information. Do not be afraid to ask the members of your healthcare team any questions you have. Do not worry that the team will not have time to answer your questions, because they do have the time. Do not be afraid to ask a question because you think it might be embarrassing. It won’t be. Every question is important. Never be afraid to ask a question because you think you might be bothering somebody. You won’t be.
These are some of the members of your healthcare team:
Your family doctor is a very important member of your healthcare team. Your family doctor likely knows you and your health history better than many of these healthcare professionals. This information is very important in making treatment decisions. Between visits to the hospital you will often continue to see your family doctor who can give advice and further explanations of treatment. Your family doctor works with the rest of your healthcare team to take care of you before, during and after your cancer treatments.
Cancer Doctors (Oncologists)
Oncologists are doctors who have highly specialized training in cancer treatment. They often serve as the main caretakers of the cancer patient and coordinate treatments provided by both themselves and other specialists. Cancer patients often will see more than one oncologist. Each oncologist has an area in which they are expert. The following are examples of oncologists:
- Medical oncologist: a doctor who is an expert in treating cancer with medications (medicines), such as chemotherapy drugs.
- Hematologist: a doctor who is an expert in diseases of the blood, including cancers such as lymphoma. Hematologists are also experts in treating cancer with chemotherapy.
- Radiation oncologist: a doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.
Oncology nurses have specific training and expertise in caring for people with cancer. They provide information and support to you and your family and help you understand your cancer and its treatment. They may explain treatment options to you, give you cancer treatments, and/or help you to deal with any side effects you may experience. You may have many different nurses; however, there may be one who is your main point of contact.
Nurse Practitioner (Advanced Practice Nurse)
Nurse practitioners are advanced practice (registered) nurses who have completed additional courses and specialized training in cancer care. They take on additional duties in diagnosis and treatment of patients and may be an important part of your cancer care team.
Infirmière Pivot en Oncologie (IPO; Québec)
The IPO is a special kind of nurse that is only found in Québec. This role was created by the provincial government. IPOs are easily accessible resource people who are experts in cancer and work closely with the interdisciplinary team. They work with the patient and the interdisciplinary team throughout the entire journey to get to know the patient and family, identify the support systems and provide information to the patient and family about the type of cancer and the impact it will have on their lives. They are also an invaluable resource for ongoing evaluation and health promotion.
Surgeons are doctors who repair or remove a part of the body by operating on a patient. Surgery is not a common treatment for lymphoma. However, in some cases it may be helpful. Surgeons perform biopsy procedures, which are very important for the accurate diagnosis of lymphoma. Surgical oncologists are surgeons who have received specific training in removing cancerous tumours from the body.
Pathologists look at the cells that were taken from the tumour during the biopsy procedure. They examine the cells under a microscope to determine if there is cancer present, and what type of cancer it is. Hematopathologists are pathologists with a specialization in blood diseases and may also be involved in your care.
Radiologists read and interpret x-rays and other imaging tests. Imaging and x-rays are an important part of the diagnosis procedure. Radiologists, who are sometimes called interventional radiologists, may also be involved in certain biopsy procedures that involve imaging studies.
These are the people who give you radiation therapy treatments (if your doctor prescribes them for you). They also help and support you throughout the treatments.
Oncology pharmacists prepare and dispense (give out) your prescription medication for your cancer treatment. The medication may be to treat your cancer (chemotherapy), or medicines to help with any side effects of your cancer treatments. Pharmacists can also help educate you about the medications, including dosage, how to take the medication, side effects and precautions.
Registered dietitians have special training in appropriate nutrition for specific disease states, like cancer. They can offer advice and instruction about your diet.
Physiotherapists help you with the physical recovery from your cancer. They can help return your level of health and fitness back to your original (pre-cancer) state and maintain and improve your overall fitness and health.
Occupational therapists help you manage your normal, daily activities. They can design and provide devices to help you regain your independence and improve your quality of life.
Psychologists and Psychiatrists
These healthcare professionals help you and your family deal and cope with the emotional effects of living with cancer (stress, anxiety, depression, etc.).
Social workers support, counsel and help you and your family deal with cancer and the impact it may have on your lives. They provide emotional support. They can also advise you on financial concerns.
Spiritual Care Workers
Spiritual care workers support you and your family by providing spiritual counselling.
Palliative Care Team
These professionals work with patients and families to support and provide care related to pain and symptom management, as well as end-of-life care. The team is usually made up of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, dietitians, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
People often think that palliative care is only for cancer patients who are dying. This is not so. Palliative care professionals are skilled and thoughtful people who focus on aspects of cancer treatment other than the cure. In other words, they treat the symptoms of cancer (like pain) and the side effects of cancer treatment. Their role is to provide you with the best possible care to ensure that you can enjoy the fullest possible range of activities during and after your cancer treatment.
Health Interpreters (Translators)
If English is not your first language, your healthcare team can provide an interpreter (translator) for you. Do not be afraid to ask for this service. Your healthcare team will be glad to provide it for you. It is very important that you understand what your team says to you about your treatment, and that you fully understand any instructions they may give you. Sign language interpreters are also available.