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