Your Lung Cancer Care Team

Woman speaking with doctorEach member of you cancer care team has a specific role in your treatment and healing. This includes education and support. Your care team may include the members below, but there may be people other people like technologists, rehabilitation specialists, spiritual care providers, dieticians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants or complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers that are a part of your team. Make sure you feel comfortable with each member of your team and understand their role in this process. Never be afraid to ask questions. Communication with your care team is key in making the treatment process as smooth as possible.

Care Team Interactive Chart

Your care team is not limited to these providers. Throughout your journey many other providers will contribute to your care. Some of these may include:

  • Dietician or Nutritionist: A specialist trained to advise people on what to eat to meet their dietary needs.
  • Radiation Technologist: A technician who prepares patients for radiation therapy and runs the radiation equipment.
  • Rehabilitation Specialist (physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists): This person can help you reduce your symptoms and side effects. They will teach you techniques that will help you improve your quality of life.
  • Pathologist: This doctor studies tissues, fluid or blood from the patient to assist in diagnosis and treatment decisions.
  • Pharmacist: A person trained to prepare and dispense medications. Your pharmacist can be a great resource and answer many of your questions about medications and side effects. 
  • Psychologist and Psychiatrists: Specialists that can help you cope with the emotional aspects of cancer.
  • Clergy or Spiritual Care: You may have your own resource or you can ask your care team or treatment facility to help connect you with spiritual or religious support.

A second opinion…

You are entitled to seek a second opinion or switch doctors at any time. It is important that you feel comfortable and in control. Don’t worry about upsetting your doctor if you get a second opinion. It is common for patients to explore all of their options. A good doctor will respect your desire to be informed and will help you make the best choices.

To get started, use this list of suggested questions.

And remember…

Your family, friends, neighbors, work colleagues and others can be very important members of your care “team.” To find out more about getting support, check out the Getting and Giving Support section.

Top 10 Tips for Communicating with Your Lung Cancer Care Team

  1. Ask questions. Health professionals talk about cancer all day long so sometimes they forget that you are new to this information. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or nurse to explain something you don’t understand. You might say, “That doesn’t quite make sense to me. Can you explain it more simply?”

  2. Bring a friend or family member to take notes during appointments. They can record your questions and answers and so you can digest the information later.

  3. Don’t take it personally. Sometimes medical professionals can seem unemotional or not friendly. This does not mean they don’t care. Providers try and keep their emotions out of their work so they can focus on your treatment and provide you the best care possible.

  4. Speak up. If something about your care provider bothers you, bring it up in a constructive way. Like any relationship, there will be rough spots. It is important to voice your concerns and opinions.

  5. Tell them what you know. Your provider will judge how much information to share with you based on what they sense you already know and what you want to know. Communicate what you know about your cancer and what you want to know. Recite what they explain to you in your terms if you aren’t sure you understand something correctly. You might start off a sentence with, “So you mean I should…”

  6. Ask your nurse. Oncology nurses are very knowledgeable and may have more time to talk with you than your doctors. They may also be able to explain things better.

  7. Look at pictures. Ask to see x-rays or scans, or ask the doctor to draw a diagram or show you a video. Every person has a different learning style and seeing the information might make it easier to understand.

  8. Tell them what works. If your provider explains something in a certain way that works for you, share it with them. You might say, “Seeing pictures really helped me understand what you were trying to explain.”

  9. Say thanks. If your provider goes above and beyond or makes you feel at ease, express appreciation for their efforts.

  10. Be your own advocate! If your provider is not meeting your needs, you are entitled to tell them and/or switch providers. You are in control of your treatment and you should do whatever you find necessary to get the best care possible.

Early detection of lung cancer can increase survival rates. Call the Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA or talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening.