Your Cervical Cancer Care Team: Key Players to Know

Health Writer
View as:|
1 of 12
Next
iStock

When you have cancer, having a team of doctors and other health care professionals with differing areas of expertise can lead to improved diagnosis and treatment options. In fact, these "multidisciplinary" teams are considered the gold standard in cancer care. If you have cervical cancer, here are some of the key players who may be on your health care team.

iStock

Gynecologic oncologists lead the team

A gynecologic oncologist is trained in both diagnosing and treating cancers and all matters relate to women’s reproductive health. It’s not just important to diagnose and treat cervical cancer, says Sarah Hosford, M.D., assistant professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center — it’s also important to provide comprehensive care for women with cervical cancer, including on-going follow up and addressing fertility concerns.

iStock

Gynecological oncologists also perform surgery

About 90 percent of early stage cervical cancers are treated with surgery, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Procedures range from removing abnormal cervical cells with a cone biopsy or loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) to a full or partial hysterectomy, in which the cervix and one or more surrounding organs are removed. Because the reproductive organs are close to the bladder and kidney tubes, surgery is complex, so seek care from someone experienced, says Dr. Hosford.

iStock

Patient navigators guide you through your journey

Patient navigators (sometimes called patient advocates) or case managers can guide you and your family through the complexities of cancer care, from the screening and diagnosis process through treatment and survivorship. Oftentimes, your navigator is also a nurse or social worker. They ensure you get the proper care when you need it, answer questions, and help with the logistics of your care (for example, insurance coverage or finding sources of financial assistance).

iStock

Radiation oncologist and team provide further treatment

Radiation therapy is often part of treatment for all but the earliest stage cervical cancers, according to Dana-Farber. Your radiation therapy may be administered externally or by placing radioactive material in or near the tumor using delivery devices such as seeds or a catheter. Your radiation team will also include a nurse, a technologist, and a dosimetrist, a specialist who calculates and plans tailored radiation doses.

iStock

Your primary care provider sees the whole picture

Most people seek general medical care from a primary care provider (PCP) or internist who knows your personal and family history and who can often recognized when something is amiss. During cancer treatment, your primary care provider will stay involved in your care, especially if you have additional medical conditions. You may need to adjust treatment for these health problems while undergoing cancer treatment.

iStock

Social workers support you — and your family

While you may be focused on the physical aspects of your cancer, the disease also touches the emotional and financial aspects of your life — and your family’s lives. Luckily, social workers are there to help you cope with the entire experience of cancer. A social worker can help family members deal with caregiving stress, identify financial or community resources, like support groups, and guide older adults in advanced care planning and dealing with loss and grief.

iStock

Pathologists offer key details and updates about your treatment

You may never actually meet the pathologist who helps diagnose your cancer. However, these professionals play an important behind-the-scenes role. They look at sample cells from your tumor under a microscope to determine what type of cancer you have and how advanced it is. Your oncologist uses this information to recommend the best course of treatment. During treatment, the pathologist may help your oncologist determine if — or how well — you’re responding to the therapy.

iStock

A spiritual advisor can support your emotional health

A chaplain or other spiritual advisor may be an important part of many patients’ emotional health during cancer treatment. Patients who have someone to care for and support their spiritual needs have better quality of life, especially when they approach the end of life.

iStock

Oncology nurses help coordinate cancer care

Oncology nurses are nurses with additional expertise in caring for people undergoing cancer treatment. These nurses can assist in many aspects of coordinating your care, from providing patient education to even administering cancer medications.

iStock

Pharmacists help you understand medications

Pharmacists do more than just fill prescriptions. They are often the ones who can spot potentially harmful drug interactions between two or more drugs and identify potential drug-disease interactions. If you have questions about your medications, your pharmacist is a great resource.

iStock

Family and friends create your support foundation

Finally, don’t forget that your family members and friends are a crucial part of your cancer support team. A primary caregiver, such as a spouse, parent, or adult child, can help you make difficult decisions about treatment, provide emotional and caregiving support, and advocate for your needs and wishes throughout your cancer journey. Not only can your family and friends be there to lift you up in hard times, but just as importantly, they’ll be there to celebrate your successes, too.