Lung cancer is a complex disease, so you may have different types of doctors on your treatment team. Having a team of experts on your side will help you get the best treatment.
From doctor to specialist
After graduating from medical school, doctors train for a number of years in a specific area, such as internal medicine or family practice. Some then go on to complete fellowships in subspecialty areas. For example, to become a pulmonologist (a doctor who treats lung disease), a 3-year residency in internal medicine and then a 2-year fellowship in pulmonology are required. After training, the doctor must pass an exam to become board-certified in a specialty area.
A lung cancer treatment team may include some or all of the following specialists:
- Family practitioners and internists are doctors who have completed residencies in family medicine or internal medicine. They are often the first to find your cancer. They can work together with specialists to help coordinate your care.
- Pulmonologists are doctors who diagnose and treat lung diseases. These include cancer and breathing problems caused by cancer. To diagnose lung cancer, this doctor may do x-rays and take a tissue sample (biopsy) from the lung.
- Pathologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing diseases. They use a microscope to examine the tissue sample taken during a biopsy. This enables the doctor to diagnose the type of cancer and how advanced it is.You may never meet your pathologist, but he or she will consult with other doctors on your team.
- Oncologists are doctors who treat only cancer. There are 3 main types:
- Medical oncologists treat cancer using medicines, such as chemotherapy. He or she may also refer you to specialists for other treatment.
- Radiation oncologists use x-rays and other types of radiation to treat cancer.
- Surgical oncologists perform surgery to diagnose and treat cancer. They can do biopsies and remove tumors.
- Diagnostic radiologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing disease using imaging tests, such as x-ray, MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound. Interventional radiologists may also use imaging tests to guide them as they perform biopsies.
- Thoracic surgeons specialize in chest surgery. A thoracic surgeon can treat cancers of the lung, esophagus, and chest wall.Some thoracic surgeons also are trained in surgical oncology.
Created on 10/25/2007
Updated on 05/04/2011
- American Society of Clinical Oncology. The oncology team.
- National Cancer Institute. How to find a doctor or treatment facility if you have cancer. Accessed October 16, 2007.