Ep. 31 – Are we forgetting these cancer care team members?

Continuing our celebration & honoring of survivors in today’s episode, we covered 5 cancer care team members that we might forgetting. It can be easy to get wrapped up in our #OncoPT world to the point we forget about other professionals who can serve our patients physically, emotionally, & mentally. While we as OncoPTs may not be making the official referral to these providers, we spend quite a bit of time with our survivors & can discuss our findings with referring providers to ensure comprehensive care for our patients. Some of these providers are:

  • Psychlogists/counselors
  • Registered dietitians
  • Palliative care
  • Cancer-related pain team
  • Community-based fitness professionals

Let’s take a closer look:


Depression, anxiety, feelings of overwhelm, & more are well-documented mental health issues cancer survivors can face. Let’s not forget that some of our survivors were already experiencing them before their diagnosis, so making a counselor or psychologist part of the cancer care team is a fantastic way to ensure our patients’ mental & emotional health are part of the care plan. If your facility doesn’t have a psychologist or counselor on staff, PsychologyToday has a search tool to find therapists in your area.

Registered dietitian

Cancer treatment can affect how & what a person is able to eat/drink, how foods taste, & ultimately how they manage their weight. Even after treatment is finished, registered dietitians can help survivors follow a healthy eating pattern to fuel their lifestyle. The American Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics also has a search tool to find RDs in your area if your facility doesn’t have one on staff.

Quick note here: I am biased here when I suggest a registered dietitian – they are the experts in nutrition & have undergone extensive education, like PTs, to treat their patients. A “nutritionist” can be anybody who calls themselves that, including someone who woke up one day & decided to tell people about nutrition.

Palliative care

“Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness.”

Marian Grant, DNP, ACNP-BC, ACHPN, FPCN, RN – Ep. 28

As I mentioned earlier, OncoPTs spend quite a bit of time with our survivors, sometimes more than the oncologists. We have the opportunity to learn more from the patient about their quality of life, what their concerns are, & more, so we are in the perfect position to suggest palliative care referrals to the oncology team. Palliative care clinicians are becoming more & more prominent in the oncology field, & I love it! To learn more about palliative care, listen to Ep. 28 with Dr. Marian Grant.

Cancer-related pain

Cancer-related pain can be a beast, requiring several different approaches to manage. As with mental/emotional health issues, our survivors may have pain from prior issues. My facility is blessed to have both a massage therapist & an acupuncturist in-house, who are great practitioners to help tackle pain. For my survivors who want to see these providers closer to home, I’ve started doing some independent research to find providers with oncology experience. I’ve had some great cross-referrals within the massage therapy community, & I’m slowly meeting more people who can help serve our survivors. Pain management may also be a great resource for patients to help with their cancer-related pain.

Community-based exercise professionals

Once our survivors are done with their rehabilitation phase with us, they may benefit from the structure a community-based exercise professional can provide, if they’re not inclined to keep up independently. As discussed in my interview with Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, FACSM in Ep. 10 & 11, ACSM offers ways for patients to connect with trained exercise professionals in their area. There are also group programs, such as FitSteps For Life, that are excellent resources for survivors to continue with regular physical activity to promote long-term wellness – bonus: FitSteps is FREE with a physician referral!

There are many cancer care team members who serve our patients, physically, emotionally, mentally, & spiritually. The ones discussed above are just a few. So how are you helping survivors connect with more comprehensive cancer care services? Shoot me an email at TheOncoPT@gmail.com & let me know!

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