Your cancer pathway will usually start from a referral from your GP. If your GP feels you need specialist assessment or investigations, for example, x-rays, special blood tests or biopsies, they will refer you to hospital to be seen by an appropriate Consultant. The consultant will diagnose your cancer, which is managed within specific tumour sites, for example, breast, upper GI, head and neck.
A management plan is drawn up for each patient. Our team of experts in the field of cancer will look after you from the diagnosis stage to your treatment and after treatment.
Staff you may see
You will most likely see a number of different medical staff while you are in our care. The team may consist of:
- surgical oncologists – doctors who use surgery to treat cancer
- radiologists – doctors who specialise in x-ray tests or scans
- medical oncologists – doctors who treat cancer primarily with chemotherapy
- clinical oncologists – doctors who treat cancer with radiotherapy and chemotherapy
- pathologists – doctors who specialise in identifying different types of cells using a microscope
- therapy radiographers – specialists who give radiotherapy and can help and advise you during your radiotherapy
- chemotherapy nurses – have training in cancer care and chemotherapy administration
- clinical nurse specialists – nurses with specific expertise in cancer
These staff members caring for you are experts in different fields of medical care, and together they are known as a multi-disciplinary team.
Every patient diagnosed with cancer in the Northern Trust will be discussed by the team working within your specific tumour site. They will review all aspects of your care and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. A member of the team will discuss this with you. You will be given written information to read at home and time to think about your options. You will then be seen in clinic again to make a final decision on your treatment. You may not always see the same member of the team.
As well as doctors and nurses, the multi- disciplinary team caring for you draws on the skills and expertise across the hospital. Depending on the type of cancer you have, you may see:
Physiotherapists work with cancer patients, helping you maintain your fitness and overcome disability. They support patients to live as active and independent lives as possible.
Occupational therapists work with cancer patients to improve everyday function and also to prevent disability. They offer advice and education to patients and their families and/or carers as part of the treatment provided.
Speech and language therapists
Speech and language therapists specialise in assessing, diagnosing and treating patients who have communication or swallowing problems as a result of cancer.
These problems may be due to the site of the disease or disease spread, changes following surgery or due to the side effects of treatment.
Pharmacists arrange the supply of medicines for inpatients and outpatients; they also prepare chemotherapy treatments for patients.
Your disease/condition or its treatment (or just the anxiety of being in hospital) might affect your appetite and it is important for your health and well-being that you stay well nourished. A dedicated team of dietitians give dietary advice to cancer patients, and if necessary can arrange special diets or nutritional supplements.
Social workers provide support for patients and their families who have been diagnosed and are living with cancer.
They work with community and social services agencies to help patients, their family and carers manage the social and practical problems of living with cancer, supporting cancer patients from diagnosis through to post-bereavement, often involving complex cases.