The Myeloma Care Team: a Who’s Who of Healthcare Professionals
As an individual with multiple myeloma, you may be interacting with various members of your healthcare team. Understanding who’s who can help you prepare specific questions to ask. Initially, you may have visited your primary care physician, who would have referred you to a hematologist-oncologist in your area. Multiple myeloma care is multidisciplinary and involves various specialists working together in consultation with each other. Below, we have listed some of the members of a myeloma care team and their roles:
Primary care physician
A primary care physician works in partnership with specialists in providing ongoing myeloma care and also assists you with treatment decisions. Some patients transition back to their primary care physician from their hematologist-oncologist. The decision to do this may depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, side effects of therapy, your personal preferences, and your medical insurance.
Hematologist, medical oncologist
While hematologists and medical oncologists are both myeloma specialists, hematologists are trained in the study of blood diseases, and medical oncologists specialize in cancer treatment. Both can diagnose and treat multiple myeloma, can administer chemotherapy, and may also be stem cell transplant experts.
A radiation oncologist prescribes and coordinates the course of radiotherapy to treat cancer. In multiple myeloma patients, low-dose radiation therapy may be used to treat areas of bone damaged by myeloma that have not responded to chemotherapy.
An orthopedic surgeon specializes in surgery on bones and can address orthopedic problems that may occur alongside multiple myeloma care. Surgery may be required to help relieve pain and may involve two surgical procedures to treat spinal fractures—vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty.
Oncology nurse, nurse practitioner, or educator
An oncology nurse works closely with your physicians (hematologist, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist) to coordinate your care and administer therapy and other drugs. Nurse practitioners are nurses who have completed additional training and may be involved in the management of myeloma patients. Nurses may also be educators and provide patients and their families with information about the cancer, treatments, and side effects, as well as resources for support. The MMRF has phone support at 1-888-841-MMRF(6673) with nurse specialists who provide information and support.
Oncology social worker
Oncology social workers help with emotional, physical, or financial problems faced by families and provide links to support services.
A psychiatrist/psychologist may help you deal with the emotional and behavioral issues you may face. While a psychiatrist is a physician who can prescribe antidepressant or antianxiety medications, a psychologist is a counselor who cannot prescribe medication and who uses therapy to help treat psychological conditions and side effects.
You may experience dietary issues during treatment and recovery. A certified dietitian or nutritionist can help plan your diet and answer questions regarding decreased appetite, weight loss/gain, dry/sore mouth, or nausea or vomiting.
Pharmacists are professionals who are qualified to fill prescription medications. They are an invaluable resource regarding medications and can answer questions about when and how to take them, side effects that may occur, and possible drug interactions.
A dentist is a doctor who specializes in oral health. Good oral health is important, and it is best to treat dental problems before you start taking bisphosphonates, start receiving chemotherapy, or undergo stem cell transplantation. If you have a central line or catheter in place, your dentist may prescribe prophylactic antibiotics before performing dental procedures. Also, consult your hematologist or oncologist before undergoing such procedures.
Clergyman/clergywoman or spiritual adviser
If you find strength and comfort in spirituality, you can seek emotional support by talking to members of the clergy or a spiritual adviser.
For more information, visit the following resources:
Information provided by Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.