There’s a lot to keep track of when you have treatment for metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. That includes the members of your medical care team. This group of professionals will likely include your primary doctor, cancer specialists, and other experts. They’ll work together to manage all parts of your care.
It’s a good idea to find out what everyone on your medical team does. That way, you can know exactly who to reach out to during each stage of your treatment. It'll also help you to know what to expect along the way.
Your Medical Care Team
Here are some of the health care professionals you may work with:
Your primary care doctor is probably the first person who sent you for cancer tests. They won’t treat your cancer directly. But they can refer you to people who can. You’ll still need to see them for health issues not related to your cancer.
Oncologists are doctors who specialize in treating cancer. That includes your medical oncologist. They can diagnose you and give you chemotherapy or another kind of drug treatment. They may refer you to other specialists, like a:
- Radiation oncologist, who treats cancer with radiation
- Surgical oncologist, who treats cancer with surgery
- Thoracic surgeon, who specializes in chest or lung surgeries
Pulmonologists are lung disease specialists. They’ll run tests and biopsies on your lungs. They’ll keep your doctor updated on how well you can breathe. Those updates may help determine what kind of treatment you get. Pulmonologists can also manage any other breathing problem that comes up after your cancer diagnosis.
Oncology nurses will be by your side when you get treatments. They get special training to:
- Give chemotherapy drugs
- Watch for side effects
- Explain how treatment will affect you
Rehabilitation therapists can help your body and lungs get stronger during and after treatment. You may need to see a:
- Physical therapist, who can help with strength and movement
- Respiratory therapist, who can help improve your breathing
Pharmacists will fill your prescriptions. They can answer any questions you have about your medicine, including ones about side effects.
Oncology social workers can help you with all parts of your diagnosis. You can think of them as your cancer guide. They’ll teach you ways to communicate with your medical team and connect you with support services. If you don’t know what to ask for, they can help you figure that out.
A social worker can assist with things like:
- One-on-one counseling
- Group therapy
- Childcare and transportation needs
- Who can manage side effects of your treatment
- How to pay for your care
- Applying for Social Security disability
Patient navigators may do some of the same things as a social worker. Their goal is to steer you and your loved ones through the health care system. They want to get rid of any roadblocks to treatment. That’s everything from transportation and childcare to fixing an insurance problem.
Registered dietitians, or nutritionists, can help you figure out a healthy diet that you can follow. They may call it nutrition therapy. You may need to change what you eat or how much you drink. That’s because cancer treatment and the disease itself can lead to:
- Nausea or throwing up
- Less of an appetite
- Chewing or swallowing problems
- Problems taking nutrients in
Palliative care specialists want to help you through all stages of your cancer care. Their job is to ease any physical or emotional symptoms that come up with your cancer or treatment.
They’ll help you with:
- Trouble breathing
- Chemotherapy side effects, like nausea
- Sleep problems
- Anxiety or depression
Mental health specialists can help you with mood issues like depression and anxiety. Your doctor may send you to a:
- Counselor for single or group therapy
Home health aides are trained to help you with your daily life. They can help you do things like bathe, dress, or eat. They’ll even assist you with cooking or cleaning up around your house.