From the time you hear you have cancer, you will meet different health professionals involved in your care.

This can sometimes be confusing. Not all hospital and community-based staff employed by the hospital will wear uniforms but they will all be identified by their hospital identification badges.

Look for this identification if you are unsure who you are talking to, and how they fit into your cancer care team.

Meeting with a doctor
Meeting with a doctor
Meeting with a doctor

Doctors in your treatment team

A doctor who specialises in the study and treatment of cancer. They are usually described as either:

  • radiation oncologist - specialises in radiation treatment
  • medical oncologist - specialises in using medicines to treat cancer

A doctor who specialises in the treatment of cancers affecting the blood or bone marrow, for example, leukaemia or lymphoma.

A doctor who is training to become a specialist and works very closely with an oncologist. Registrars usually work in the oncology or haematology team for several months. You will often meet the registrar in outpatient clinics and on the ward.

House surgeons
Doctors who are in their first years of employment after graduation. The doctors work in a variety of clinical areas to gain experience. You will meet house surgeons in the outpatient clinic and on the ward.

Trainee interns
Medical students in the last year of their training to become a doctor. They also work in clinics and hospital wards.

Other specialist doctors

Sometimes you will see another specialist as well as your oncologist. The specialist and your oncologist will then talk about your treatment.

Other specialist doctors may be:

Breast surgeon
A surgeon who specialises in surgery on your breast.

Colorectal surgeon
A surgeon who specialises in surgery on your bowel.

Head and neck surgeon
surgeon who specialises in diseases of the ears, nose, mouth, throat and neck.

Orthopaedic surgeon
A for surgery on your bones.

Plastic surgeon
A surgeon who specialises in surgery like skin grafting or reconstructive surgery.

For surgery involving your brain or nervous system.

Thoracic surgeon
A surgeon who specialises in surgery on your chest or lungs.

Respiratory physician
A doctor who specialises in diseases of the lung and your breathing.

A doctor who specialises in diseases of your skin.

A doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating disorders of your hormones.

A doctor who specialises in diseases of your digestive system.

A doctor who specialises in disorders of your nervous system.

A doctor who specialises in diseases of the urinary tract and the male reproductive system.

A doctor who specialises in diseases of the female reproductive system.

Talking about options with a nurse
Talking about options with a nurse
Talking about options with a nurse

Nurses in your treatment team

Nurses are trained to assess, monitor and report the symptoms and side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Providing information and education on all aspects of cancer care is a key nursing role. Nurses are skilled listeners and provide practical and emotional care for people with cancer and their families.

Chemotherapy nurse
A nurse who gives chemotherapy prescribed by the medical oncologist. They provide education about treatment and monitor side effects.

Radiation nurse
A nurse who provides care to those undergoing radiation treatment. This usually involves giving medication, dressing wounds and monitoring side effects.

Cancer nurse coordinator
A nurse who is the point of contact for a patient across different parts of the health service. They support and guide patients and their families to keep them fully informed about their care.

Clinical nurse specialist
A nurse who has advanced skills within a speciality area or cancer type. You may see them alongside the doctor at hospital appointments, and they can answers questions you may have about your cancer treatment.

Outpatient nurse
A nurse who works alongside doctors during their clinics at the hospital.

Ward nurse
A nurse who looks after you during your stay in the hospital.

Community-based nurse
A nurse who visits you in your home for extra support. You need a referral from your family/whānau doctor or the treatment team at the hospital to access them.

Research nurse
If you are taking part in a clinical trial, you will meet the research nurse whose job it is to coordinate your care during the trial and keep your information about the trial.

Radiation therapists

If you are having radiation treatment, you will meet radiation therapists. They plan your radiation treatment with your radiation oncologist, and they also give the radiation treatment.

Radiation therapists will also give you information and watch for any side effects you have while undergoing radiation treatment. 

Palliative care team

A team of specialist doctors and nurses helps keep you comfortable by managing symptoms such as pain, feeling sick, or tired.

They are not trying to cure your cancer but help you have the best possible quality of life. They can help you at any stage of cancer, from diagnosis to the end of life.

Need someone to talk to?
8:30 am to 5:00 pm Monday to Friday
0800 226 237 Information nurse

We know that going through cancer is tough and can raise many questions. You are not alone.

We have health professionals to answer your questions and provide the support you need. Get in touch

Last updated: December 22, 2022