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Your Cancer Care Team

Each member of our team plays a special role in your care.
Some of the team members deal directly with you to treat your cancer. Others support you with the impact of cancer on you, your family and your friends, while some members do not work directly with you but are still vital to your treatment.

Your health and comfort are very important to us. We have a well-trained staff available to meet your needs and to help you with any problems, questions or concerns that you might have about your illness and care. 

Effective cancer care involves you, your family doctor, cancer specialists and other healthcare professionals. Although you will see different healthcare professionals, your family doctor remains your primary doctor and continues to play a major role in your ongoing care. Your family doctor will receive regular reports regarding your cancer and care from your treatment team.

Here are of some of the healthcare professionals who may be working with you.

Clerks receive, process and communicate information to assist healthcare professionals in providing care. This may take many forms such as scheduling clinic appointments, booking tests, requesting records or information and taking personal and biographical information for registration.


Clinical associates are physicians who gather medical information that will assist the oncologist.


Counsellors help patients and family (whoever you define as family) clarify your concerns, express your emotions and discover the strengths you need to cope successfully. Their counsel is provided either in private discussions or a group setting. They also know about the many other community groups and services that are available for you. Counsellors can also guide patients to practical help, such as financial assistance or help at home, available through local agencies. 

Families and close friends are also welcome to call on the services available from our staff. You are welcome to call before your first appointment to find out what services are available.


Cytopathologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis of cancer through the microscopic examination of body fluids, including cervical (Pap) smears. A cytopathologist also performs fine needle aspiration biopsies and provides a diagnosis to the doctor within a few minutes of the procedure in order to minimize delays in treatment-planning by the oncologists.


Cytotechnologists screen cytology preparations using a microscope, and mark areas that appear abnormal so that they can be reviewed by a cytopathologist, who issues a diagnosis. In the case of Pap smears, cytotechnologists also report normal findings and non-malignant changes noted by microscopic examination.


Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy can produce changes in the mouth, such as soreness or dryness. The Oral Oncology Department is available to help manage mouth care for patients. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding mouth care as you go through treatment.


Dermatologists at BC Cancer – Vancouver are physicians who specialize in the care of skin cancers.


Registered Dietitians (RDs) at BC Cancer – Vancouver are skilled in the nutritional care of people with cancer and offer counselling to manage with the various nutritional difficulties that might arise during your treatment. You and your family might have questions about nutrition that you can talk to our RDs about, such as: "Should I change the way I eat during cancer treatment?" or "What can I do if I have lost my appetite or I am losing weight?" 


Genetic counsellors have a specialized graduate degree and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counselling. They work as members of a healthcare team, providing information and support to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions.


Genetic pathologists are physicians who specialize in genetic testing of inherited cancers, cancer genetics, cancer cytogenetics and molecular pathology.


Haematopathologists are physicians who specialize in the diagnosis of leukemia and lymphoma, and other blood, lymph gland, spleen and bone marrow disorders.


Laboratory assistants help technologists prepare samples for analysis.


Laboratory technologists prepare blood, body fluids and tissues for analysis by automated instruments, microscopy, molecular analysis, flow cytometry, and perform analysis by such methods.


Librarians manage the Library and Cancer Information Centre, located in the Cancer Research building. They can assist you with any questions you may have and find resources and articles for you about cancer, its treatment and how to cope with the disease.


Medical biochemists are physicians who specialize in the interpretation of biochemical changes in blood associated with cancer and other conditions.


Medical geneticists are physicians who have specialized training and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counselling. They provide information and support to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions. 


Medical physicists specialized training in the medical applications of physics. Their work often involves the use of x-rays, ultrasound, magnetic and electric fields, infrared and ultraviolet light, heat and lasers in diagnosis and therapy. Medical physicists work in radiation therapy, radiation safety, diagnostic imaging and research development.


Oncology nurses are Registered Nurses (RNs) who have additional education in cancer care. They administer chemotherapy treatments or care for patients while the patients are receiving radiation therapy and other treatments. Other nurses work on the inpatient units caring for patients who must stay in hospital. Some nurses also work with patients who are receiving investigational treatments.

A nurse could help in the following situations:

  • understanding what to expect through treatment
  • teaching patients how to prevent and manage side effects
  • suggesting ways to stay as well as possible during and between treatments
  • supporting patients in managing difficult situations
  • administering treatment 

Oncologists are doctors certified in the field of cancer (oncology) and who specialize in the diagnosis, biology and treatment of cancer. They will study your cancer and recommend a treatment program, including the types of tests that you will need.

Our team of oncologists work together to provide a comprehensive service. As we are a teaching facility, you may also see residents and general practitioners who are trained in oncology. Even if you don’t always see your primary oncologist at your appointments, be assured that they are reviewing your plan and monitoring your care. 


Radiation oncologists primarily use radiation to treat or control cancer and its symptoms, although they may also use drug treatments. They will meet with you to discuss your treatment, decide how long your treatment will last and monitor your progress during and after treatment. Radiation therapy uses beams of high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. A radiation oncologist works with a team of medical physicists and radiation therapists to design your radiation therapy plan.


Medical oncologists use treatments such as chemotherapy, gene therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and so on to treat and control cancer and its symptoms. These treatments may be taken orally or by injection through a vein in your arm. A medical oncologist will discuss your treatment with you and recommend a treatment program; however, the actual treatment will be carried out by other healthcare professionals.


Surgical oncologists are surgeons who specialize in cancer operations.


Pathologists are doctors who specialize in cancer diagnosis and predictive testing. They ensure that each patient's diagnosis is correct. They also ensure that each cancer is correctly classified, graded (the probable growth rate of the tumour and its tendency to spread) and staged (the extent of the cancer within the body). Where necessary, they will order additional tests for guiding therapy by oncologists. 


Medications used to treat cancer are clinically evaluated and dispensed at BC Cancer – Vancouver by a team of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy assistants. These medications, which are provided free of charge, will either be administered at the cancer centre or will be given to you to take at home. Pharmacists will provide you with detailed verbal and written information about the drugs you will take at home. They will also review your other medications to ensure they are safe to take with the cancer treatment. Our pharmacists are available to discuss any questions or concerns that you may have about your cancer medications.


Prescriptions for medications for supportive care, such as antinauseants or pain control medications, must be taken to and paid for at a community pharmacy.  For more information, see Drug Funding


See the Treatment Services section for pharmacy hours and contact information.


Phlebotomists are trained staff who specialize in obtaining blood samples from patients with minimal pain or bruising.


Physiotherapists are specialists trained in using exercise and physical activities to condition muscles and improve level of activity. Physiotherapy is helpful for those with a physically debilitating illness. 


Psychiatrists are medical doctors trained in the diagnosis and management of mental illness. They help cancer patients at BC Cancer with psychological, emotional or behavioural problems, whether new or pre-existing, throughout the course of their journey with cancer. Referral to a psychiatrist at BC Cancer is made through an attending oncologist or a Patient and Family Counselling Services’ counsellor.


Radiation therapists are specially trained to plan, design and deliver your radiation treatment. They operate the radiation therapy equipment, monitor you during your treatment and ensure the accurate and safe delivery of your radiation treatment.


Radiographers (also known as Diagnostic Imaging Technologists) are trained in the techniques for safely obtaining images, including general x-rays, ultrasound, computerized tomography, mammograms and magnetic resonance images (MRIs) for the purpose of diagnosing illness and monitoring the patients' response to therapy.


Radiologists are physicians who specialize in the use of imaging techniques (for example, x-rays, ultrasound, CT scans, magnetic resonance imagery (MRI), fine needle biopsy) for diagnosis or to assist treatment, for example, in inserting catheters into blood vessels or in choking the blood supply of a tumour by injection of a type of glue.


Respiratory therapists are responsible administering diagnostic lung function tests and of procedures to restore optimal use of your lungs.


Volunteers enhance the quality of care for patients and families, as well as complementing the role of the staff throughout BC Cancer. 


SOURCE: Your Cancer Care Team ( )
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