Health Care Professionals

Following are descriptions of the health care professionals you may encounter at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center

When treating children, such as at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, professionals in these categories generally use the term 'pediatric' in their title, for example, pediatric oncologist, a doctor who treats children with cancer.

Anesthesiologist: a doctor who specializes in giving drugs or other agents to prevent or relieve pain during surgery or other procedures being done in the hospital. They may also prescribe and administer drug therapies or perform special techniques for acute or chronic cancer pain.

Dentist: a specialist who provides oral or dental care for patients undergoing radiotherapy, chemotherapy and/or surgery for head and neck cancer.

Dermatologist: a doctor who has training to diagnose and treat skin problems. A dermatological oncologist has specialized training in diagnosing and treating skin cancers.

Dietitian: an expert in the area of nutrition and food who has at least a bachelor's degree and has passed a national board exam. Many registered dietitians specialize in areas like weight management, exercise science, cancer care or cardiac rehabilitation.

Dosimetrist: a person who calculates and plans the correct radiation dose (the amount, the rate and how the dose is spread out) for cancer treatment or other diseases that require radiation treatment.

Endocrinologist: a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating hormone disorders and cancers of the endocrine system, including the adrenal and thyroid glands.

Gastroenterologist: a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the digestive system including the esophagus (swallowing tube), stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, gallbladder and bile duct. Treats patients with colorectal cancer, liver cancer or pancreatic cancer.

Genetic counselor: a specially trained health professional who:

  • Helps people decide whether to have genetic testing
  • Helps people understand the risk of a genetic disorder within a family
  • Provides information about the options available depending on the results of genetic testing
  • Helps the patient consider the screening and preventive measures that are best, based on the test results

Gynecological oncologist: a doctor who treats women who have cancer of the reproductive organs.

Hematologist: a doctor who focuses on diseases and cancers of the blood and related tissues, including the bone marrow, spleen and lymph nodes.

Hepatologist: a specialist in diagnosing and treating liver disease.

Interventional radiologist: a doctor who uses imaging techniques (e.g., X-rays, CT scans) to both diagnose and treat cancer and other diseases. These procedures are typically minimally invasive and carry a lower risk of complications than regular surgeries.

Medical geneticist: a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating genetic disorders or conditions. Medical geneticists also counsel individuals and families at risk for certain genetic disorders or cancers.

Medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer and manages the patient's course of treatment including general care and, if used, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and immunotherapy. A medical oncologist may also consult with other doctors about the patient's care or refer the patient to other specialists.

Medical Physicist: a person trained to assure that the radiation prescribed in imaging and radiation therapy is delivered accurately and safely.

Nephrologist: a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating kidney disease and cancer.

Neurologist: a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the nervous system, including cancers of the brain and spine.

Nurse practitioner: a registered nurse who has additional education and training in how to diagnose and treat disease. Nurse practitioners are licensed at the state level and certified by national nursing organizations. In cancer care, a nurse practitioner may manage the primary care of patients and their families, based on a practice agreement with a doctor. Also called an advanced practice nurse, APN or NP.

Occupational therapist: a licensed and specially trained therapist who works with patients to help them relearn how to perform daily activities. They also work to prevent disability and maintain health. The practice of occupational therapy includes evaluation, treatment and consultation.

Oncology clinical nurse specialist: a registered nurse with a master's degree and advanced clinical practice in oncology nursing who specializes in the care of cancer patients. Oncology CNSs have many different roles depending on the setting. They may give direct patient or family care; supervise staff caring for patients and families; do nursing research related to cancer patients; or teach patients, families and staff about cancer, treatment and side effects.

Ophthalmologist: a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating eye problems, including injury, disease and cancers.

Otolaryngologist: a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the ear, nose and throat, including cancer of the head and neck. Also called an ENT doctor.

Pathologist: a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and classifying diseases by lab tests, such as looking at tissue and cells under a microscope. The pathologist determines whether a tumor contains cancer, and, if it is cancer, the exact cell type (where it started) and grade (how fast it likely will grow).

Physician assistant: a health professional who is licensed to do certain medical procedures under the guidance of a doctor. A physician assistant may take medical histories, do physical exams, take blood and urine samples, care for wounds, and give injections and immunizations. Also called a PA.

Psych-oncologist: a doctor who can help patients and families with mood, anxiety, feelings of loss, grief and confusion. If needed, a psych-oncologist may prescribe medications or suggest therapies to help during cancer treatment.

Pulmonologist: a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the lungs, including cancers. Also called a pulmonary specialist.

Radiation oncologist: a doctor who specializes in the use of radiation to treat cancer.

Respiratory therapist: a professional who works on breathing problems and administers care, including breathing treatments and managing patients on ventilators (breathing machines). A CRTT or certified respiratory therapy technician may also examine the patient, collect information about lung function, and set up and maintain equipment, such as ventilators.

Social worker: a professional who is an expert in coordinating and providing help with the social and emotional needs of the cancer patient and family. The oncology social worker may do counseling, help patients and families manage financial problems, work on housing or child care issues (when treatments must be taken at a facility away from home), and help people cope with different types of emotional distress.

Surgeons:

  • Neurosurgeon: a doctor who specializes in surgery on the brain, spine and other parts of the nervous system.
  • Orthopedic surgeon: a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating injuries, diseases and cancers of the musculoskeletal system. This includes the bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles.
  • Plastic surgeon: a doctor who specializes in altering or restoring the way the body looks or in rebuilding removed or injured body parts. Also called a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. These doctors may treat or remove skin cancers, or perform reconstructive surgery on other parts of the body following cancer treatment to improve function appearance.
  • Surgical oncologist: a doctor with special training in treating cancer who may perform biopsies to diagnose cancer, or treat a cancer by removing tumors or other cancerous tissue.
  • Thoracic surgeon: a doctor who operates on organs in the chest, including the lungs, ribs, sternum (breast bone), diaphragm (the muscle that helps breathing) and other associated muscles. These doctors treat patients with primary or metastatic cancers in the chest.

Urologist: a doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary organs in women and the urinary and sex organs in men.

Primary sources: www.cancer.gov/dictionary and cancer.org.

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