Cancer is the second leading cause of death across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, cancer was responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. That statistic highlights just how serious a threat cancer can be.
While cancer claims the lives of millions of people each year, a cancer diagnosis is most definitely not a death sentence. In fact, five-year survival rates for various cancers detected in their early stages are very high. For example, the organization Cancer Research UK notes that more than nine in 10 bowel cancer patients will survive the disease for more than five years if it's diagnosed at the earliest stage. Five-year survival rates are similarly high among patients diagnosed with early stage breast and ovarian cancer.
Men and women who have been diagnosed with cancer will work with various healthcare professionals as they begin and advance through treatment. The American Cancer Society notes that the following are some healthcare professionals who may form a cancer care team.
• Anesthesiologists: A professional who administer drugs or other agents, such as gasses, that can put patients into a deep sleep or alleviate pain. Anesthesiologists typically perform these tasks during surgical procedures.
• Case manager: Case managers coordinate patients' care throughout diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Case managers work in a liaison-type role between patients and their insurance companies.
• Clinical nurse specialist: A clinical nurse specialist, or CNS, is a highly educated individual who works closely with the entire cancer care team. These professionals have advanced training and clinical experience in a certain area of medical and nursing practice.
• Discharge coordinator: Discharge coordinators are often nurses or social workers who help make sure patients have what they need to continue their recovery when they leave the hospital.
• Dosimetrist: A specially trained and certified individual who calculates and plans the correct dose of radiation therapy for cancer treatment.
• Medical oncologist: A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer with chemotherapy and other drugs.
• Nurse practitioner: A nurse practitioner, or NP, may be referred to as an advanced practice registered nurse. These professionals have a master's or doctoral degree and special certification and work closely with doctors, helping to diagnose and manage care.
• Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer.
• Palliative care specialists or team: A group of healthcare professionals that may include doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others, who work together to help patients manage symptoms such as pain, nausea or fatigue.
• Pathologist: A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and classifying diseases through lab tests and examining tissues and cells with a microscope.