While dealing with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, patients and their families will interact with many health professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, and dietitians. At some hospitals, a coordinated approach to patient care is provided by a multi-disciplinary team. The multi-disciplinary team includes health professionals with a variety of specialties who meet regularly to discuss the care of their patients. It is important for patients to be familiar with and understand the roles of each member of the healthcare team.
A gastroenterologist is a medical doctor who specializes in function and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach, intestines, pancreas, and associated organs. Patients often seek initial care from a gastroenterologist when symptoms occur. Gastroenterologists perform exams such as ERCP and EUS.
A medical oncologist is an internal medicine doctor who specializes in cancer, treats cancer with medical therapies, such as chemotherapy, and manages most complications of cancer treatment.
Nurse or Nurse Practitioner
A nurse has a wide range of skills to carry out the treatment plan prescribed by the doctor. Some nurses specialize in oncology. Nurses are excellent resources to ask questions about treatment, get tips or assistance with care, and obtain support services or educational materials.
Nurse practitioners have advanced training and education that allows them to perform physical exams, diagnose problems, order tests and treatments, and prescribe medications.
A pain specialist is a medical doctor whose focus is the diagnosis and treatment of pain. Pain specialists work closely with medical oncologists to find appropriate treatment options. Pain medicine doctors include anesthesiologists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, and specially trained psychiatrists.
A pathologist is a medical doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope. Pathologists play an important role in obtaining an accurate diagnosis.
A psychiatrist is a medically trained doctor who specializes in providing psychological help. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication in addition to providing psychological counseling.
A psychologist has received specialized education in psychology and counseling. Some psychologists specialize in chronic illnesses, such as cancer. Psychologists treat patients through therapy and counseling sessions. They do not prescribe medications.
A radiation oncologist is a medical doctor who specializes in cancer and uses radiation to treat cancer and its symptoms.
A dietitian is a healthcare professional trained in food, nutrition, biochemistry, and physiology. A dietitian can provide guidance regarding an appropriate diet for the patient. A dietitian can help choose foods that provide the appropriate amount of calories, vitamins, fats, and protein necessary during treatment. They can be essential resources in managing symptoms and side effects associated with a disease. Most hospitals have dietitians on staff to help patients with their dietary needs.
Social workers are professionally trained to assist and counsel patients and families. Most hospitals and cancer centers have specific oncology social workers. The role of the social worker is to provide resources regarding treatment, support groups, financial resources, end of life care, transportation assistance, or home care.
A surgeon is a medical doctor who has additional medical training in surgery. Surgeons treat people with pancreatic cancer through operations, such as the Whipple procedure or biliary bypass surgery.
We’re Here to Help
For more information on healthcare roles, or for other free, in-depth and personalized resources and information on pancreatic cancer, contact PanCAN Patient Services.