Choosing Your Cancer Treatment Team

Finding the right people for your oncology team, or cancer treatment team, can take time, and that’s okay. Learn about who’s on your team and what each person does.

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Building Your Team

Find doctors and specialists who:

  • You respect
  • You can talk to easily
  • Don’t make you feel rushed
  • Answer your questions
  • Help you gather information to make thoughtful treatment decisions

Key Members of Your Cancer Treatment Team


A specialist trained in the use of an endoscope. Usually, a biopsy will be taken by the gastroenterologist or endoscopist at the time of colonoscopy.


This specialist is the doctor who will perform your surgery. Look for a surgeon experienced with colon and rectal cancer. (This is especially important
for rectal cancers.)


This doctor specializes in the general diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Medical oncologists are experts in medications like chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapies to treat cancer.


This doctor specializes in treating cancer with radiation therapy to target and kill cancer cells. Radiation treatment is often used to treat rectal cancers.


This nurse specializes in treating side effects that result from colorectal cancer treatment. An oncology nurse may administer your treatment and can be a key resource for information and support.


This specialist can work with your treatment team to relieve pain and manage other uncomfortable side effects. Palliative care can begin at the time of diagnosis and can continue throughout treatment.

Key Members of Your Support Network


Social workers provide many services to cancer patients and their families. They can serve as a bridge to your medical team and offer advice and resources to help you.


You may require rehabilitation during and after treatment. A physical or occupational therapist may work with you to reach optimal physical function.


If you are of childbearing age and considering family planning, discuss fertility preservation with your doctor before beginning treatment. Your doctor may refer you to a fertility specialist to discuss fertility preservation methods.


In some cases, doctors may recommend seeing a genetic counselor. There are a number of genetic syndromes linked with a higher likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. Learning if you have one of the syndromes is important for treatment decisions and for alerting family members.


Hospice care teams focus on providing the best quality of life to an individual at the end of life. Unlike palliative care, hospice care is usually provided to patients with a life expectancy of less than 6 months.


These mental health professionals are trained to help you address the many challenges associated with cancer. These challenges could include adjusting to the diagnosis, the stresses of medical treatment, emotional needs, relationship navigation, and more.


A dietitian will educate you on how to eat well during and after treatment. You may find that your eating habits change during treatment. Knowing what to eat can help you stay nourished.


Chaplains have the unique role of addressing existential questions asked by a patient. You can request to talk to a chaplain, or your hospital may ask you if you’d like to speak to one.


These are trained individuals who guide you through the cancer continuum – from diagnosis to survivorship. Patient navigators are trained to direct you to support services and any additional resources you may need.

Questions to Ask Your Cancer Treatment Team:

There are many questions to consider, and some you may not even know are helpful to ask. As you prepare the questions you’d like to ask ahead of your appointment, consider including these questions recommended by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center:

Cancer diagnosis      

  • What type of cancer do I have? What is my exact diagnosis?   
  • Where is the cancer located? Has it spread?   
  • What is my prognosis?

Cancer staging       

  • What's the stage of my cancer?    
  • What does this stage mean for my cancer treatment and prognosis?

Cancer treatment 

  • What are my treatment options?     
  • Which treatment do you recommend and why?       
  • What's the goal of my treatment? 
  • What side effects does this treatment have?   
  • How often will I have treatments? How long will they last?     
  • How should I prepare for treatment?

Cancer research and clinical trials·        

  • What are clinical trials?   
  • Are clinical trials an option for me?·        
  • How can I learn more?

Cancer treatment side effects        

  • What are possible risks and side effects? What should I do to manage them?      
  • Will treatment make me infertile? If so, is there anything I can do to try to preserve my fertility?      
  • Whom should I call with questions? What about if it's after hours or an emergency?       
  • How will treatment affect my daily life? Can I still work? Can I still exercise?    
  • What can I do to stay as healthy as possible before, during and after treatment?


  • What support services are available for my family and me?     
  • Can you refer me to support services?


  • Who handles health insurance concerns in your office?   
  • I'm worried about paying for my treatment. Who can help me?

Learning more   

  • Can you please explain my pathology report to me?
  • To avoid confusion, what terms should I use when looking up information about my disease?      
  • What resources do you suggest to help me learn more?      
  • Are other members of my family at risk?

Final tips to help you prepare for your visit:

  • Write out and prioritize your questions before you arrive. This allows you to ask your most important questions if face-to-face time with your provider is limited. 
  • Take a friend or family member to help write information down or ask questions. 
  • Decide how you would like to receive information. This may help you and your provider plan your questions and determine the depth at which to discuss each. 

Tips for Communicating with Your Oncology Team

  • Carry a notebook with you to write questions down and track side effects.
  • Bring someone else to appointments to help you manage the information you are receiving.
  • Use an online planner to let everyone in your support network know about your treatment schedule.
  • Drive the discussion -- take ownership of your care and make sure you and your health care providers are on the same page.
  • Get a second opinion! You can get one at any time and it's even recommended by most doctors. A second opinion will help you to feel more comfortable with the treatment you receive, learn more about your options, and get reassurance that you're on the right track.

Finding Treatment  for Colorectal Cancer

Investigate your options. Learn what hospitals or medical facilities are in your area and what services they offer. You may have to visit a few different facilities to get everything you need, so shop around for the best combination of providers to fit your supportive treatment goals. Be sure to check with your insurance provider to know what's covered and who's in network.

More Resources

  1. Get the ultimate go-to resource for everything Stage III & Stage IV colorectal cancer survivors need to know at time of diagnosis by downloading Your Guide in the Fight. You’ll get more information on everything you read here and so much more!
  2. For a complete list of National Comprehensive Cancer Network institutions with a full range of experienced staff, visit
  3. Search our resource library to see specific tools, publications, and testimonials from other survivors who have been through this process before and have dedicated their time to helping you learn from their experience.

Call Fight CRC’s toll-free resource line (1.877.427.2111) to speak directly with a counselor from Cancer Support Community. They can connect callers to local or national resources, including support groups, transportation services, and other programs. Available in 200 languages from 9am-9pm EST, Monday through Friday.