Your Cancer Support Team: Who’s on Your Side?
Build the Best Cancer Support Team for All Your Needs
Building Your Cancer Support Team
While having the collected expertise of a cancer support team may seem
great, you may be anxious about having to choose all of its members. Luckily,
you don’t have to.
"There are so many people who will be involved in your care that it’s
virtually impossible to research every one of them,” says Burstein. That’s why
it’s so important to have a doctor that you like and trust, since he or she
will be pointing you toward specific experts. This can be an advantage, since
your cancer support team is likely to work most efficiently if all of the
experts have collaborated before.
“Usually, your doctor will already have a group of people that he or she
works with all the time,” says Burstein. “So you don’t need to track down each
That said, if you already have a specific person in mind -- a surgical
oncologist that your sister loved, or a dietitian you’ve worked with before --
talk to your doctor. If it would make you more comfortable, ask to have this
person brought onto your cancer support team. By the same token, if you’re not
comfortable with one of the experts your doctor has referred you to, tell your
doctor. Ask to see someone else.
The important thing is that your cancer support team runs smoothly. “Having
a team of people who can work well together is invaluable for someone with
cancer,” says Burstein.
One advantage of getting care at a specialized center or large hospital is
that you might be able to see everyone -- from oncologist to dietitian to
therapist -- under one roof. It can make things easier for you and reduce the
odds of miscommunication between health care providers, says Buckner. Still,
you can get excellent medical care even if you do have to go to different
medical centers. Just check in with your doctor to make sure that everyone on
your cancer support team is working well together.
Asking for What You Need From Your Cancer Support Team
Part of your cancer support team’s job is to make sure that you’re getting
the care that you need. Your caregivers should be regularly checking in to make
sure that you're doing as well as you possibly can, both physically and
But that doesn’t mean you should leave everything up to the experts. You
need to take an active role in your treatment. You’re not just a patient --
you’re a vital member of the team.
“Our goal is to make treatment as easy, comfortable, and successful as
possible,” says Ades. “But patients have to tell us what they need.”
When you’re in treatment for cancer, things may change from day to day or
week to week. Yesterday, you felt great, but today, the side effects are awful.
Or you may suddenly realize that your chemotherapy schedule just doesn’t fit in
with the rest of your life. As long as you keep your doctor up to date, your
cancer support team can tweak your treatment, or add new experts as you need
them. Don’t be shy about asking for help.
So never underestimate your own role in making your treatment work. If you
need something that your cancer support team isn’t giving you, speak up.