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Medical oncologists and clinical oncologists work as part of a team. This team is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT) and includes all the healthcare staff who look after people having cancer treatment.
Your multidisciplinary team (MDT) will have regular meetings to coordinate and plan your care and treatment.
The team will include:
A clinical oncologist, sometimes called a cancer specialist, is a doctor who is trained in the use of radiotherapy and chemotherapy|. They are responsible for prescribing and supervising your course of treatment.
You may see your clinical oncologist before, during and after your course of radiotherapy so that the effect of the treatment can be monitored. If you have any problems between these appointments, the nurses or radiographers can arrange an extra one for you.
If you’re having chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy, your treatment may be supervised by a doctor called a medical oncologist. Medical oncologists specialise in chemotherapy treatment.
Radiographers are trained in using x-ray equipment. There are two main types of radiographer: diagnostic radiographers and therapy radiographers.
Diagnostic radiographers use x-rays and scans to diagnose illness. You may have x-rays or scans from time to time during and after your treatment to check the effect your radiotherapy is having on you.
Therapy radiographers operate the machines that give you your radiotherapy treatment. They are trained in giving radiotherapy and in patient care. They also play an important part in helping you cope with any problems you have during your treatment, and can give information, support and counselling. They work closely with your clinical oncologist, and a physicist to plan your treatment.
Where possible you’ll see the same radiographers throughout your course of treatment, so you may get to know them well. They can give you help and advice about any aspect of your treatment, and you can discuss any of your concerns or anxieties with them.
You can ask to be treated by a radiographer of the same sex as you, if you prefer.
Some radiotherapy departments have radiotherapy assistants. They help the radiographers deliver your treatment and can give you information and support.
Working with the clinical oncologist is a physicist - a radiation expert - who will help to plan your treatment, assisting your specialist in decisions about the best way of giving the prescribed amount of radiation. The physicist is also responsible for maintaining the accuracy of the equipment used. You may not meet the physicist as they usually work behind the scenes.
You may need to have a mould made of part of your body to keep it still during treatment. This will usually be done by technical staff in the mould room.
Some radiotherapy clinics have nurses who look after your general needs, such as dressings and medicines. The nurses in the radiotherapy department can also give information and advice about the treatment, as well as practical support.
Many cancer centres have specialist cancer nurses, sometimes called clinical nurse specialists, who have expert knowledge about your type of cancer. They can also be a good source of support and information during your treatment.
A dietitian can give you advice if you have problems eating and drinking because of your radiotherapy treatment - for example, if you have difficulty swallowing or have a dry mouth.
If the radiotherapy is being given to the neck area, it may temporarily affect your speech. A speech and language therapist will be involved in your recovery and can give you advice and support.
Social workers can give advice about any non-medical problems you have, including practical and financial help. For example, some people can claim travel expenses and others may be eligible for a grant from a charity. Social workers can also provide or arrange counselling and emotional support for you and your family. If necessary, they can refer you to local support services that can help you at home. You can ask to see a social worker if you think this would be helpful.
Many hospitals have a symptom control team who give extra help and support to people with symptoms or side effects of treatment that are causing problems. There may be other staff, such as physiotherapists, who can help with any specific questions you may have.
Counsellors are available in some hospitals. If you feel that speaking to a counsellor would be helpful, ask the staff looking after you to arrange an appointment.
Content last reviewed: 1 July 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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