If you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, you’re probably still reeling.
You may be grappling with issues that are profound -- like life and death --
and mundane -- like who will do the laundry when you’re in the hospital?
But you won’t fight this alone. Of course, you’ll have your family and
friends. And you’ll have your doctor. But your medical care won’t just be in
the hands of a single MD. Instead, you’ll need a whole cancer support team to
help you through this. “Good cancer treatment always requires a lot of people,”
says Jan C. Buckner, MD, chair of medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic in
For more information, U.S. residents may call the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time. A trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions.
The NCI's LiveHelp® online chat service provides Internet users with the ability to chat online with an Information Specialist. The...
Of course, you may be wondering how this system works. How can you -- when
you are probably feeling overwhelmed already -- pick an entire cancer support
team? Here’s what you need to know.
Why Do You Need a Cancer Support Team?
Treating cancer often requires more than one approach -- not just
chemotherapy for instance, but surgery or radiation, too. That usually means
more than one doctor.
But good medical care is more than just treating the cancer itself. Cancer
can affect every aspect of your life: your mood, your diet, and your family, to
name a few. So you may need nurses, dietitians, therapists, and other experts
on your cancer support team. People you may never meet -- like pathologists and
anesthesiologists -- also help while working behind the scenes.
Having all of these experts on your cancer support team is invaluable. “Each
member of the team can each bring a different perspective to diagnosis and
treatment,” says Terri Ades, MS, APRN-BC, AOCN, director of cancer information
at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. “With more people on your team, you
get more options.”
The Heart of Your Cancer Support Team: Your Doctor and Nurse
First things first: you need to start with a doctor. Usually this will be a
medical or surgical oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating cancer.
Given the stakes, settling on an oncologist can be nerve-wracking. However,
Harold J. Burstein, MD -- a staff oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer
Institute in Boston and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical
School -- urges people not to fret too much.