Treating cancer is complex due to the breadth and depth of skills required by health and medical professionals. These skills are essential for the successful treatment of the condition. Besides, the different manifestations of cancer create further challenges for healthcare professionals.
The primary care provider in cancer diagnosis and treatment is the oncologist who manages the cancer disease trajectory. Comprehensive cancer care entails the involvement of the oncology team whose members oversee the different types of treatments. When approaching a healthcare facility for cancer care, you are most likely to liaise with medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, and radiation oncologists. Medical oncologists use pharmacological interventions and radiation oncologists use radiation therapy. Cancer surgery is carried out by surgical oncologists.
Beyond the involvement of oncologists, a cancer care team also consists of oncology nurses, who are responsible for performing physical examinations, identifying symptoms and side effects, administering medication and chemotherapy, educating and counseling patients and families, and coordinating care with the rest of the oncology team. Cancer care may also require the contribution of oncology physician assistants (PAs) and oncology nurse practitioners (NPs) who may be involved at different stages such as diagnosis, treatment, and education.
Further, palliative care nurses and doctors may help resolve symptoms when treatment strategies are not able to meet the required goals. Further, certain healthcare delivery systems may also rely on the services of the patient navigator, genetic counselors, and oncology social workers. Several other professionals linked to mental health, nutrition and dietetics, rehabilitation, pathologists, and pharmacologists may also be involved, if required during the cancer treatment journey.
What is the Role of the Oncologist in Coping with Cancer
The primary role of oncologists is to manage patient care throughout the disease course, including explaining the initial diagnosis, current stage, disease impact, and treatment options. They are also responsible for delivering high-quality compassionate care and can deal with cancer treatment and its side effects. The overall treatment plan is drafted after consulting with an interdisciplinary team. An oncologist also answers key questions that a patient may have and proposes a timeline and what to expect during the course of treatment for the specific cancer type.
# How an Interdisciplinary Oncology Team Successfully Treated Gastric Cancer
John Muller of Massachusetts General Hospital describes the case of a 76-year-old woman evaluated at their multidisciplinary gastrointestinal clinic. Her primary concern was the management of adenocarcinoma of the body of the stomach. The patient developed epigastric abdominal pain and obtained an upper endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis. Her medical history indicated several concomitant conditions including hypertension, T2DM, and GERD. A multi-disciplinary team of surgical, medical, and radiation oncology recommended surgery followed by postoperative chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In spite of the advanced nature of her disease, the woman successfully tolerated the care due to a coordinated effort of a team specializing in gastric cancer. Who are the Other Oncologists
In addition to medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgical oncologists, cancer care may require the involvement of several specialties. A pediatric oncologist plays a major role with respect to the children diagnosed with leukemia, brain tumors, Ewing’s sarcoma, or osteosarcoma. A gynecologic oncologist may be exclusively involved with concerns in the gynecology and obstetrics domain, such as cervical cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer. Furthermore, a hematologist-oncologist is in charge of treating cancer that evolves in the bloodstream. These types of cancers may include myeloma, lymphoma, and leukemia.
# How Nurse Oncologists Care for Their Patients
Oncology nurses function in multiple healthcare settings and are involved in myriad oncology disciplines. Their roles evolve constantly and their major functions include patient assessment through formal care plans to achieve success with an understanding of disease and treatment, improving compliance, and promoting positive outcomes. Oncology nurses may function in different ways:
- Care coordination for multiple sites ensuring optimal communication between personnel, managing symptoms, organizing referrals, and providing support to patients.
- Patient education through the use of visual and written aids to teach patients how to effectively cope with cancer. Nurses may also connect patients to support groups and community programs. Educating patients and their families helps copd with the disease.
- Nurses may also connect patients to support groups and community programs to assess disease severity, treatment regimen, and side effects using objective and subjective, patient history, and proposed treatment.
- In direct patient care, nurses are responsible for administering chemotherapy and for the management of drugs, and their reactions and disposal. They may be involved in documenting the effects of drugs, minimizing errors, and improving patient safety.
- Nurses may also provide supportive care, survivorship, and pain management. Pain control is challenging and may have several barriers such as misconceptions about drug tolerance.
How Oncologists Can Help Manage Pain for a Better Quality of Life
Pain is associated with most cancer cases at different stages of their disease. The prevalence of pain in these cases is quite high, and in spite of the enforcement of international standards for the optimal management of pain, the approaches currently in place do not guarantee relief from pain. Experts argue that optimal patient outcomes can be achieved by combining pain-relieving medication with complementary procedures to achieve a better quality of life. Scientific evidence indicates that improper pain management may result when the medication administered is not proportional to the intensity of pain. Further, a slow pace of research with respect to the pain experienced in cancer, and the need for effective treatment guidelines and training for healthcare professionals is essential.
An oncologist can help manage pain effectively through pharmacological interventions including NSAIDs, acetaminophen, opioids, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. In addition, complementary strategies may be used including yoga, behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and education to relieve anxiety and distress and improve the overall quality of life. Other strategies may include the use of co-analgesics such as tricyclic antidepressants, gabapentinoids, norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and serotonin inhibitors. Cannabinoids are also interesting treatment options. Furthermore, CBT helps restructure emotional responses, and neuromodulation is a non-invasive technique that helps achieve analgesic effects and holds promise.
How Oncologists can Help Patients Cope with Cancer in Palliative Care
Advanced stages of cancer can create significant stress for patients and their caregivers. This stress may be managed through several approaches that are either problem-focused, meaning-focused, or emotional-focused. They may also be based on religious and spiritual coping techniques. Oncologists can help patients learn to cope using these techniques for an improved quality of life, better understanding of end-of-life care, and optimal symptom management.
How Cancer Care Experts Help Patients Cope with Emotional Responses
Anxiety is a common complaint among patients at the time of diagnosis, treatment onset, transition to follow-up care, and annual follow-up visits in remission. Patients may also experience depression. Oncologists can help patients cope with emotional responses.
Nurses play a major role through comprehensive nursing assessments and ongoing assessments. Nurses can intervene using different approaches such as helping patients ask the right questions, educating patients, validating their feelings, and giving them company. They can also promote socialization, assess support systems, and the availability and willingness of support groups and family to assist the patient during recovery.
How KareOptions can Help
KareOptions can assist patients in their cancer journey by supporting them in confirming a sound diagnosis and selecting the right treatment course with the assistance of the best interdisciplinary oncology team. The major services covered by KareOptions are Continuity of Care (COC), Transfer of Care Coordination (TOCC), and Second Opinion Board Review (SOBR), beyond the Medical Second Opinion Service (MSOS).
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