If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with cancer, you know there are many people involved in cancer care.

For some, the period between cancer diagnosis and treatment can feel like a dizzying loop of doctors, nurses, lab and radiation technicians, counselors, and others – all focused on planning, coordinating care, and guiding patients on their cancer journey. As cancer care evolves and improves, advanced practice providers, or APPs, are playing an increasingly important role.

APPs wear many hats and are also known in the medical industry by several titles, including mid-level providers, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. While the titles can vary across the medical industry, APPs are essential members of the oncology care team, working closely with physicians every step of the way to ensure treatment is fully focused on each patient’s unique needs.

Their presence as part of the patient experience is on the rise as APPs step in to assist with follow-up appointments, individualized chemotherapy education, advance care planning, survivorship, and many other aspects of care. The American Society of Clinical Oncology reports that 73 percent of oncology practices currently employ APPs. That compares with just 52 percent in 2014. There is good reason for this development. Physicians, like medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgeons, always are in charge of a patient’s overall care and treatment planning. Nurses coordinate care and help address patients questions and needs during and between office visits – often stepping in for after-hours needs. With specialized training and advanced education, APPs offer an additional layer of medical expertise and individualized care to patients and their families.

During visits for acute care, supportive care, or routine appointments, APPs are at the ready under the guiding hands of your physician. They diagnose and treat a myriad of problems, order and review laboratory studies and imaging as well as prescribe medication.

APPs also allow oncology practices to expand the range of support services available to patients. A crucial facet of this includes helping guide patients and educate them about their diagnosis and the type of treatment they are undergoing. All of our APPs are skilled in providing specific education regarding expectations for chemotherapy side-effects and how to respond to them. Many of our APPs are trained in genetic counseling and provide ongoing follow up for higher risk patients and families.

Another key aspect of an APP’s work is helping manage follow-up care and survivorship as patients adapt to their ‘new normal’ following treatment.

A patient will experience many ups and downs during their cancer journey. APPs are integral care team members who offer clinical expertise and insight to help guide patients through the many phases of treatment. Their expertise can help educate and steer not only patients, but also family members, through the challenges of treatment, survivorship, and long-term follow-up needs and expectations.

This type of pivotal support from APPs enables oncologists to deliver overall better care and additional services to patients. That’s why Texas Oncology is increasing the number of APPs on our team. In our experience, patients are building strong bonds with these caring professionals, seeking their trusted advice, and counting on them to help make decisions that will enhance their treatment experience – and rallying for them every step of the way.

Benjamin West, M.D., Texas Oncology is a radiation oncologist at Texas Oncology–McAllen, 1901 South 2nd Street in McAllen, Texas. To learn more about exciting advancements in cancer treatment, visit www.TexasOncology.com or call 1-888-864-I CAN (4226).

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