SolveYourProblem Article Series: Cancer
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Cancer Medical Specialists and Their Jobs : Part 1

Your health care team will be made up of several people, each with different expertise to contribute to your care. One of your cancer care team members will take the lead in coordinating your care. Most prostate cancer patients initially choose a urologist to lead the team. Later if a patient chooses radiation as his primary treatment, he may transfer his care to the radiation oncologist.

It should be clear to all team members who is in charge, and that person should inform the others of your progress. The following list will acquaint you with the health care professionals you may encounter, depending on which treatment option and follow-up path you choose, and their areas of expertise:

Anesthesiologist: An anesthesiologist is a medical doctor who administers anesthesia (drugs or gases) to make you sleep and be unconscious or to prevent or relieve pain during and after a surgical procedure.

Dietitian: A dietitian is specially trained to help you make healthy diet choices before, during, and after treatment. A registered dietitian (RD) has at least a bachelor's degree and has passed a national competency exam.

Medical Oncologist: A medical oncologist (also sometimes simply called an oncologist) is a medical doctor you may see after diagnosis. The oncologist is a cancer expert who understands specific types of cancer, their treatments, and their causes. He or she may help people with cancer make decisions about a course of treatment. Oncologists most often become involved when you need chemotherapy, but can also prescribe hormonal therapy and other anticancer drugs.

Nurses: During your treatment you will be in contact with different types of nurses.

Registered nurse: A registered nurse has an associate or bachelors degree in nursing and has passed a state licensing exam. She or he can monitor your condition, provide treatment, educate you about side effects, and help you adjust to prostate cancer physically and emotionally

Nurse practitioner: A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with a master's or doctoral degree who can manage prostate cancer care and has additional training in primary care. He or she shares many tasks with your doctors, such as recording your medical history, conducting physical exams, and doing follow-up care. In most states, a nurse practitioner can prescribe medicines with a doctor's supervision.

Clinical nurse specialist: A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is a nurse who has a master's degree in a specific area, such as oncology, psychiatry, or critical care nursing. The CNS often provides expertise to staff and may provide special services to patients, such as leading support groups.

Oncology-certified nurse: An oncology-certified nurse is a clinical nurse who has demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of oncology care. He or she has passed a certification exam. Oncology-certified nurses are found in all areas of cancer practice.

Pathologist: A pathologist is a medical doctor specially trained in diagnosing disease based on the examination of microscopic tissue and fluid samples. He or she will determine the classification (cell type) of your cancer, help determine the stage (extent) and grade (estimate of aggressiveness) of your cancer, and issue a pathology report so that you and your doctor can decide on treatment options.

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