Working With Your Metastatic Cancer Team

When you have metastatic cancer, you’ll be facing choices that affect your future, and at times they may be challenging. Here’s how to make those decisions less daunting.

Health Monitor Staff
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Follow these steps to come up with a plan to best manage your metastatic cancer.

Metastatic cancer: during your exam

  • Put the focus on clarity. Your doctor will present the treatment options that are most relevant to you. If you don't understand something, simply say, "I don't understand." If you're still uncertain, repeat the information in your own words. If you think looking at scans or X-rays will help, say, "Please show me on my scan...."
  • Have a friend help you. Ask a friend to come along and help you take notes so you don't miss anything your doctor says. Then, when you get home, review each option thoroughly.
  • Don't compare your case to other cases. No two cases of cancer are the same. Another person with the same diagnosis may have an entirely different treatment plan.

Metastatic cancer: following your visit
Ask yourself:

  • Do I feel comfortable with my doctor? You should feel your doctor is competent and caring.
  • Do I have all the info I need? If you are having trouble making a decision, odds are you don't. Don't be afraid to seek a second opinion or ask more questions.
  • What matters most to me? Make sure you understand the goal of a particular therapy. Is it to prolong your life? Ease pain? Will you be able to tolerate the side effects?  
  • How much do I want to know—or be involved? Maybe you'd rather not hear every detail or you prefer to entrust treatment decisions to your doctor or a loved one.

Who's who on your metastatic cancer care team
During your treatment, a variety of medical professionals may come in and out of your life. Here are the healthcare providers you may work with:

Medical oncologist—an MD who specializes in treating cancer with medicine

Radiation oncologist—an MD who specializes in treating cancer using radiation

Surgical oncologist—an MD who specializes in treating cancer through surgery

Palliative care doctor—an MD specializing in preserving quality of life through pain management and symptom relief

Plastic surgeon—an MD who can assist with reconstruction after surgery, such as a mastectomy

Oncology nurse—an RN who provides care, support and education during cancer treatment

Infusion nurse—an RN who administers medications, such as chemotherapy, through infusions

Nurse navigator—an RN who educates you and provides supportive resources you and your family may need during treatment

Registered dietitian—a nutrition expert who can help you choose the best foods to eat

Psychiatrist—an MD who can prescribe medication to help you deal with depression, anxiety or other mental issues that arise as a result of your cancer diagnosis and treatment

Psychologist—a mental health professional who provides counseling for emotional issues

November 2013