Your Treatment Team

Many different health care professionals will play a role in your lung cancer treatment. Some of them include:

  • Medical oncologists are physicians who specialize in treating cancer. Often the medical oncologist is the key person who refers the patient on to additional specialists, such as radiation oncologists (cancer doctors who administer radiation therapy) and surgical oncologists (cancer doctors who perform surgery). Lung cancer patients are encouraged to be seen by a thoracic oncologist, a cancer doctor with expertise in lung cancer.
  • Oncology nurses are specially trained to administer cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, monitor side effects during treatment, and educate patients and families about treatment and its side effects.
  • Oncology social workers are trained to provide counseling and practical assistance to cancer patients. They can provide emotional support, assist in coping with treatment and treatment side effects, help patients communicate with their treatment team, and refer patients and loved ones to resources. CancerCare’s staff of professional oncology social workers provide these services to lung cancer patients and their loved ones.
  • Palliative care specialist/Pain management specialists are physicians who have special training in managing side effects from the cancer and also in pain management.
  • Pathologists are physicians who examine the lung cell tissue samples collected during a biopsy to determine if the patient has lung cancer, as well as the type and stage of disease.
  • Physical therapists help patients regain strength and movement during and after treatment.
  • Primary care physicians are usually the first person most people see if they are not feeling well, or are having unusual health symptoms. Some insurance companies require that a patient see their primary care physician in order to obtain a referral to a specialist. Often, the primary care physician will order the initial round of diagnostic tests.
  • Psychiatrists or psychologists are mental health professionals who provide psychotherapy for people experiencing anxiety, depression, and other psychological illnesses. Psychiatrists, who are also medical doctors, can prescribe medication to improve mental health.
  • Pulmonologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of lung disease. He or she can perform tests and biopsies, and treat patients who have respiratory issues related to lung cancer.
  • Radiation oncologists are specialists who use radiation to treat cancer.
  • Radiologists are physicians who utilize imaging and interpret follow-up CT, PET and MRI scans during and after treatment to monitor disease progression and response to treatment.
  • Registered dietitians counsel patients to assist them in managing weight loss or gain or other nutritional issues.
  • Respiratory therapists help patients learn how to improve their breathing capacity.
  • Thoracic surgeons perform chest surgery and may also have specialized training in surgical oncology—the use of surgery to remove cancerous tumors and tissues in and around the lung.