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Specialists You May See for Advanced Lung Cancer

By

Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

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Types and Stages of Lung Cancer

The type and stage of your lung cancer will determine how your doctor approaches your treatment.
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Doctor reviewing X-rays

From the moment you were diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, a treatment team started to form to tackle your disease head-on. While your medical oncologist is probably your main contact regarding your cancer, there will be other specialists involved in your care who will recommend and implement treatment plans specific to their field. The treatment team can be different since each patient is unique, but the goal of your cancer care team is to treat your cancer as successfully as possible while giving you the best quality of life throughout your treatment.

Interventional Pulmonologist

Your interventional pulmonologist is a physician who has specialized knowledge used to diagnose and treat lung cancer. This doctor can help you breathe more easily and take deeper breaths by clearing anything that might be blocking your airway. They can help lessen any symptoms you might have, like shortness of breath or coughing, by using minimally invasive surgical techniques to remove fluid in and around your lungs. Interventional pulmonologists can also help reduce the discomfort you might experience as a result of your cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Radiation Oncologist 

Your treatment plan might include radiation therapy, and that’s where your radiation oncologist comes in. These doctors have specialized training to provide radiation treatments to people with advanced lung cancer. They use specialized equipment to target lung cancer cells with regulated doses of high-energy radiation. Your radiation oncologist will tailor your treatment to fit your particular needs.

Registered Dietitian

Since your nutritional needs during your lung cancer journey will change, you’ll probably see a registered dietitian sometime during the course of your treatment. These professionals will help you stay at a healthy weight during treatment. Your dietitian will factor in your treatment plan, your height and weight, and any other medical issues or diseases you might have to help you safely and consistently get the nutrients your body needs to fight your cancer.

Respiratory Therapist

You might have difficulty breathing or changes in your breathing patterns during the course of your lung cancer treatment. Respiratory therapists are professionals trained to assist you in learning new breathing techniques that can help you breathe more easily. If you need oxygen therapy, they will help you learn how to wear a nasal oxygen tube or face mask. Respiratory therapists can also teach you how to use other types of treatments, like nebulizers, which turn certain liquid medications into mists that you inhale.

Pain Management Specialist

Advanced lung cancer and treatments for the disease can cause you to be in a significant amount of pain. You’ll probably have a pain management physician on your treatment team who specializes in assessing your pain level and prescribing medications to help minimize the amount of pain you have. Your pain management doctor might also recommend you try non-medical pain management techniques, like guided meditation, relaxation exercises, or yoga. The goal of your pain management specialist is to keep you as comfortable as possible.

Psychiatrist or Psychologist

Dealing with advanced lung cancer can be emotionally devastating and mentally exhausting. Many cancer patients experience depression, anxiety, and other psychological illnesses after they are diagnosed. If you’re having trouble dealing with the mental and emotional aspects of your cancer, a mental health professional can help. You might have private therapy sessions with a psychologist where you can voice your concerns and fears in a non-judgmental meeting space. If you need medication to help deal with any psychological problems, a psychiatrist can prescribe medications that can help relieve some of your symptoms.

It’s important to understand that treating advanced lung cancer takes a team of people who share a common goal: to help you live the best life possible while dealing with a very serious illness. Since your cancer journey is different from anyone else’s, your treatment team might look different from another patient with lung cancer. Each member of the team has a specific role, but they are all working toward maximizing your chance for treatment success while maintaining your quality of life.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jan 25, 2017

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