Who's on Your Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Care Team?

If you have non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, you'll have a lot of help to make sure you get the best possible care. Your team of doctors, nurses, and other health care pros will treat more than your body. You can turn to them for emotional and mental health issues, too.

There are over 60 different kinds of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and your treatment depends on which one you have. Together, your team will find out the type and stage of your cancer. Then, they'll work closely with you to come up with a treatment plan.

Your Treatment Team

Depending on your needs, you may see some of these experts:

Hematologist. This doctor tests and treats blood diseases, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He can help figure out which type of cancer you have and which treatment is best.

Medical oncologist. He's a specialist who treats cancer with drugs. If you get chemotherapy -- one of the most common treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma -- you'll work closely with one.

Often, either a medical oncologist or hematologist will head your care team.

Neuro-oncologist. This type of doctor focuses on cancers that cause problems with the nervous system. If your illness affects your brain and spine, he may be on your team.

Radiation oncologist. He treats cancer with radiation, a common therapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Surgical oncologist. You'll see him if you need surgery to treat your cancer. It's not the most common treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but it's used in some cases.

More often, surgery is done for some types of biopsies. Doctors remove a lymph node or other tissue to test which type of cancer you have.

Oncology nurse. He has advanced training in caring for people with cancer. He may:

  • Give you chemotherapy, as directed by your medical oncologist
  • Manage the details of your care, from making appointments to handling insurance problems
  • Teach you and your family about treatments and side effects

Other doctors. Since both the disease and the treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can affect different parts of your body, some specialists you may need to see are:

  • Dermatologists, who care for skin diseases
  • Endocrinologists, who treat problems with the glands that make hormones, like your thyroid or adrenal glands
  • Neurologists, who handle trouble in your nervous system

 

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Getting Tested

It's not always easy to tell which kind of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma you have, but it makes a big difference in your treatment. Your team includes members who test for different types of diseases. 

Cytogeneticist. He may help find the kind of cancer you have based on certain features or changes in your genes.

Pathologist. He uses lab tests to learn what disease a person has. You may have different pathologists on your team, such as:

  • Hematopathologists, who study blood cells to find disease types
  • Lymphoma pathologists, who work just on lymphomas
  • Surgical pathologists, who look for disease using a person's blood, fluids, and tissue

Radiologist. He interprets X-rays and other images, which is another way to learn the type and stage of your cancer.

Keeping Up Your Quality of Life

Mental health professionals. They can lend a hand if anxiety hits and your spirits start to sag. Some you may see are:

  • Counselors
  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists

Social workers may also help coordinate your care and find resources and services in your community.

Dietitians and nutrition specialists. Some treatments, like radiation, might cause you to lose your appetite. These experts can help you with a plan to get the healthy foods you need. They may even come up with a diet that limits some side effects.

Physical and occupational therapists. They help you manage your everyday tasks and activities. For example, they can teach you to:

  • Exercise even when you feel wiped out
  • Keep up your strength and range of motion
  • Lower your pain and stress levels

 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on April 25, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center: "Lymphoma Treatment Program."

Mayo Clinic: "Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma."

National Health Service: "Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma."

NIH National Cancer Institute: "Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ) -- Patient Version," "What You Need to Know About Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma."

American Cancer Society: "Health Professionals Associated with Cancer Care," "How Is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treated?" "Surgery for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma," "How Is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Diagnosed?" "How Is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Staged?"

Penn Medicine, Abramson Cancer Center: "Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment."

The University of Chicago Medicine: "Adult Lymphoma."

Columbia University Medical Center, Center for Lymphoid Malignancies: "Primary CNS Lymphoma."

Lymphoma Research Foundation: "Understanding Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma."

Duke Health: "Lymphoma."

University of Rochester Medicine, Highland Hospital: "What Is a Neurologist?"

The James -- The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center: "Occupational Therapy at The James."

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