Who’s who in the YCS

Here’s an A-Z list of the health professionals who might be in your cancer care team and a brief explanation of what their role involves.

 

Cancer Care Coordinator

Cancer Care Coordinators help you to ‘find your way’ through the maze of the hospital and health care system. Your Cancer Care Coordinator is like your own personal guide.

Each YCS Cancer Care Coordinator is either a registered nurse or allied health professional such as a social worker, psychologist or youth worker. They provide individualised support and help to patients (and their families) from diagnosis throughout your treatment.

A Cancer Care Coordinator will:

  • ensure that you get timely access to quality medical and psychosocial care
  • provide tailored, age-appropriate information about treatment options, staying healthy and coping with cancer and
  • help you book appointments and coordinate your care with the various cancer specialists.

 

Cancer Nurse Specialist/Consultant

A cancer nurse specialist (CNS) or cancer nurse consultant (CNC) provides expert care and support for you and your family throughout your cancer journey, starting from diagnosis. There is also a team of cancer nurses who will be providing your care whether as an inpatient (in hospital) or as an outpatient when having chemotherapy or radiotherapy These nurses are available 24/7 and support you through all aspects of your treatment.

Dietitian

A dietitian is a specialist in food and nutrition. The dietitian can help you find the best types of food to eat during and after your treatment. They can help you to plan menus to cope with specific needs that might arise during treatment. The aim is to help you to stay well-nourished so that your body can best cope with the cancer treatment program.

 

Education/Vocation Consultant

An education or vocation consultant can help you to continue with school, university or work from the time of your diagnosis until after treatment. Some YCSs have a designated education/vocation consultant and in other services this role is taken on by the social worker. They can help with things like:

  • implementing supports so you can manage study or work,
  • providing information to education providers or employers,
  • helping you to return to study or work (if you have been unable to continue during treatment),
  • managing the side-effects of treatment that may impact your study or work and
  • setting and achieving career goals.

 

Exercise Physiologist

An exercise physiologist provides you with specific exercise advice and rehabilitation to help minimise the impact of your cancer treatment. Exercises tailored to your needs help you maintain or improve muscular strength, endurance and flexibility so that you can better tolerate treatment and maintain the physical strength to participate in normal everyday tasks.

Exercise physiologists also provide advice about ways to stay active during and after cancer treatment and can refer you to a rehabilitation facility to help you get back into work, study or sporting endeavours..

Music Therapist

A registered music therapist uses musical experiences to help you deal with some of the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs you might have during treatment. Depending on your needs and the program offered by the music therapist, you might find yourself listening to music, talking about songs and their meanings, creating and recording new songs or jamming with instruments. No prior musical knowledge is needed – as long as you like music you’ll benefit!

 

Occupational Therapist

Your YCS may be able to put you in touch with an occupational therapist. An occupational therapist is an allied health professional who works with patients experiencing acute or chronic illness to ensure you can keep up with everyday physical activities throughout your treatment.

Common cancer or treatment side-effects like reduced mobility, fatigue, pain, shortness of breath or difficulty concentrating can affect your ability to perform everyday activities, including showering and dressing, driving, studying and working. An occupational therapist can help you to manage side effects and maximise your independence, safety and comfort in doing these daily activities. Your YCS can connect you with an occupational therapist if required.

 

Oncologist

An oncologist is a doctor who specialises in treating people with cancer. There are different types of oncologists who work together to treat a young person with cancer:

  • Medical oncologists specialise in treating solid tumours like brain tumours and sarcoma.
  • Surgical oncologists specialise in the removal of the tumour (cancer) and surrounding tissue during an operation. A surgical oncologist also performs biopsies (the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope).
  • Radiation oncologists specialise in treating cancer with radiation therapy (the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to kill cancer cells).
  • Haematologists specialise in treating cancers of the blood, such as leukaemias, lymphomas, and myelomas.

An oncologist is responsible for the care of a patient from the moment of a cancer diagnosis throughout the course of the disease. The oncologist’s role is to:

  • order tests and investigate what type of cancer you have
  • explain the cancer diagnosis and stage (a description of where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body)
  • discuss all of the treatment options and recommend the best course of treatment for you.

There are many other doctors who may be involved in the planning, delivery and monitoring of your treatment. Your treatment team might include:

  • A Fertility specialist – who provides advice and/or treatment to protect and preserve your fertility throughout your treatment so that your chance of having children in the future is optimised.
  • A Pathologist – who specialises in interpreting laboratory tests and evaluating cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease. Pathologists work closely with oncologists to ensure that you are receiving optimal treatment for your cancer type and also report to the oncologist on the effects of your treatment on vital organs such as your kidneys and liver and on your blood and blood forming tissue.
  • A Radiologist – who interprets X-rays, MRI scans and CT or CAT scans to diagnose cancer, monitor treatment or detect progression or relapse.
  • A Palliative care physician – who provides specialist support for quality of life during cancer treatment by managing pain, symptoms and side effects of treatment.
  • A Psychiatrist – who can help you to manage the psychological impact of your cancer diagnosis and treatment and may prescribe medication to help with symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  • A Registrar – a doctor who is completing their specialist training and works with specialist doctors to manage patients in hospital wards and clinics.

 

Physiotherapist

Physiotherapists play a key role in the care of people with cancer from diagnosis, through treatment and after care. The physiotherapist helps patients to manage the effects of cancer or cancer treatment, including lymphoedema (swelling in the tissues beneath the skin); muscle and bone weakness; stiffness, soreness and pain; difficulty moving or getting about; and heart and lung problems.

Examples of physiotherapy services include:

  • treatment after surgery to help maximise movement and prevent complications
  • gait and balance training to maximise your independence (so you can move around without relying on others)
  • exercises and therapy for patients at risk of chest infections or other respiratory conditions and
  • general rehabilitation programs.

 

Psychologist

A psychologist can help you learn coping strategies to manage upsetting or difficult thoughts and feelings, and to get back to doing activities that are important to you. Learning coping skills can help you manage all the challenges cancer is throwing at you. When you see a psychologist, they will ask questions and listen to you to understand what’s going on for you, and work with you to put in practice some strategies to help you feel better.

 

Radiation Therapist

A radiation therapist works in the radiation oncology department and is responsible for giving you the targeted radiotherapy treatment that has been prescribed by your radiation oncologist. They ensure that the correct dose of radiation treatment is delivered to the site of the cancer.

 

Social Worker

The adolescent and young adult social worker is an important member of the YCS team, responsible for delivering psychosocial care and support to you, your family, partners and friends. As well as helping with your social and emotional wellbeing, they can arrange practical help with work/school/Uni, financial issues, housing and accommodation and accessing support services both in the hospital and in your local community.

Youth Worker

A youth worker provides support, education and assistance to young people with cancer. A youth worker may be available to you if a dedicated YCS social worker is not in your YCS team. The youth worker will work with you and your family in much the same way as a social worker.