|"To beat cancer I needed to be
and I got a lot of that from knowing
a lot about my disease and knowing a lot about my doctors
and knowing that they were the best. I was really at peace
with myself because I felt like I was in the best place..."
-- Lance Armstrong
Understanding the Roles of Your Treatment
In cycling, the competitor with the best-trained body and
most state-of-the-art equipment is not going to win the race
unless he is supported by an able and enthusiastic team of
riders. For people with cancer, those support riders make
up the treatment team, a group of specialists whose job is
to get you well.
Today's medical world is highly specialized, with doctors,
technicians, and nurses competent in a chosen area of expertise.
As a result, patients are better off with several medical
specialists on their treatment team.
Three major players provide the backbone of the treatment
-- the medical oncologist, the surgical oncologist and the
radiation therapy oncologist -- with many others in key supporting
roles. For most, the medical oncologist should be the lead
support rider, the individual who oversees your case and helps
determine your journey's course. Since oncologists are in
the business of treating cancer, they are current with the
latest ways to treat it. Your oncologist should also act as
your "informational advocate." As you research your
disease, your oncologist can help you understand the complicated
information. Your oncologist will also monitor your body's
response to treatment and make necessary adjustments. He can
give you highly specialized advice and recommendations for
radiation therapy oncologists, surgical oncologists or other
key specialists. He should be board certified and affiliated
with a hospital or outpatient center that is convenient for
If surgery is required in your case, get a recommendation
for a surgical oncologist from your medical oncologist or
primary care physician. Communication about your care is easier
if your specialists have a working relationship. You want
your surgical oncologist to be board certified and accredited
with the American College of Surgeons.
Your medical or surgical oncologist can recommend a radiation
therapy oncologist. The radiation therapy oncologist will
decide if radiation is an appropriate treatment for your cancer.
If radiation is appropriate, the radiation therapy oncologist
will choose the best treatment for you and administer and
Other members of your treatment team include your family
physician, oncology nurses, radiation therapists, nurse practitioners,
psychologists, certified cancer social workers and technicians
who support the doctors. Often, these are the individuals
caring for you on a regular basis and are a source of practical
information and comfort. The primary care, or family physician,
provides the initial diagnosis and, in most cases, joins you
on your journey by staying informed, giving referrals, and
serving as a sounding board when decisions need to be made.
Your physician is familiar with your family and medical history
and, most important, knows you best.
Your treatment team's goal is to provide you with the best
possible care. While doing so, however, the team players need
to understand that your physical and emotional comfort levels
are equally important. Keep this in mind when you are selecting
your physicians. You want individuals who not only are knowledgeable,
but who are caring and considerate. You also want physicians
who will communicate information clearly and respond to calls
and requests from you and your family. These are trying times
for you and you want doctors who value your feelings.