It is likely that throughout the prostate cancer journey you will work with several medical specialists for treatment. Keep in mind that you have a choice in who manages your care. This is about finding the right treatment team for you to work with to make the right decisions for you. Make sure to find a team you are comfortable with and trust.
Consider a Multidisciplinary Team
To receive the best care possible for prostate cancer, seek care from a multidisciplinary medical team. A multidisciplinary team is a group of healthcare professionals from different specialties that work together to suggest a treatment plan for you based on your diagnosis, personal health, and preferences to ensure you have the best health outcome and highest quality of life. Expert medical oncologist Dr. Alicia Morgans, from Vanderbilt Cancer Center, speaks on the importance of putting together a multidisciplinary team.
If you are unable to work with a multidisciplinary team, round out your team of professionals with a visit to an oncologist, even if you have been diagnosed with very early stage disease. This will give you a full understanding of all available treatments so you have the best chance to beat the disease. It will also help you understand your potential options if the cancer returns.
Most of the time the physician who makes the diagnosis of prostate cancer is the urologist. It is important to work with the urologist as you put together your team for treatment and support. Specialists involved in the treatment and management of prostate cancer are noted below.
A urologist is a physician specializing in diseases of the male reproductive organs and male and female urinary tract. Some urologists have oncology training. Many urologists are also involved in certain aspects of other forms of therapy including radiation therapy, hormone therapy, treatment of advanced disease, clinical trials, and active surveillance. All urologists are surgeons as well, and many perform prostate cancer surgery.
A radiation oncologist is a highly trained physician specializing in the treatment of prostate cancer using the various types of radiation approved to treat the disease.
A medical oncologist is a physician who specializes in the non-surgical treatment of cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, immunotherapy, and other drugs. While many men with prostate cancer will work most closely with a urologist, it is important to include a medical oncologist in the early phases of treatment planning.
Primary Care Physician
A primary care physician (PCP) is an internist or family medicine physician who treats common illnesses and oversees general care.
Oncology Social Worker
Oncology social workers are trained to work with prostate cancer patients and their families. It is important to understand your emotional well-being and get the support you need mentally, as well as physically. An oncology social worker provides individual counseling, access to support groups, and referrals to related services for men with prostate cancer.
A physical therapist can help deal with the physical changes caused by cancer treatment. Before or after surgery or radiation therapy, working with a physical therapist to strengthen the pelvic floor can help to manage or prevent side effects such as urinary incontinence. Physical therapists can also address common side effects such as pain, weakness, and fatigue.
A nutritionist provides information and guidance about good nutrition. This can help a patient combat cancer-related or treatment-related weight loss or gain by recommending foods that provide adequate calories, vitamins, and protein. In addition, a nutritionist provides helpful tips and recipes customized to fit your specific dietary needs.
Nurse, Patient, or Financial Navigator
A navigator is an expert in understanding the details of cancer treatment and will support, inform, guide, and answer questions for you through all stages of treatment and beyond. As advocates for patients and their families during prostate cancer treatment and beyond, they enhance the quality of care you receive. If a patient navigator is not made available to you, ZERO can help with our ZERO360 patient support program. Visit ZERO360 for more information.
A genetic counselor is a healthcare professional who will collect your personal and family health history and use this information to help determine the likelihood of having a genetic condition. The genetic counselor can help you decide whether or not genetic testing might be right for you or your family members, and can help explain genetic testing results.
Sexual Health Professional
A sexual health professional specializes in helping patients and their partners manage erectile dysfunction, low testosterone, hormone therapy, and incontinence related to prostate cancer treatment and side effects.
Mental Health Professional
A prostate cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Consider whether or not speaking with a mental health professional such as a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist might be helpful to you.
Consider a Second Opinion
Seeking a second opinion following a prostate cancer diagnosis is very common and doing so can make you feel more confident in the treatment decision that you make. It’s OK to get a second opinion at any point during your care. Here are some reasons you might consider getting a second opinion:
- To understand all available treatment options and have peace of mind with your treatment decision
- To get the opinion of another prostate cancer expert
- To confirm a diagnosis or treatment plan
- To hear information about your cancer explained in a different way
- To share the opinion of more than one healthcare expert with your insurance company
Some people find it hard to tell their doctors that they’d like a second opinion. Your doctor shouldn’t discourage you from getting a second opinion. If you are unsure of how to begin, here are a few ways to start the conversation:
- “I’m thinking of getting a second opinion. Can you recommend someone?”
- “Before we start treatment, I’d like to get a second opinion. Will you help me with that?”
- “If you had my type of cancer, who would you see for a second opinion?”
- “I think that I’d like to talk with another doctor to be sure I have all my bases covered.”
Before you start looking for a second opinion, contact your insurance company to find out what your policy covers. In some cases, you may have to get a second opinion from another doctor who is part of your health plan before the plan will pay for your treatment. It’s important to be able to give the new doctor the exact details of your diagnosis and planned treatment.