Do you know one of these cancer fighters?
You’re likely familiar with pharmacists who work in community pharmacies filling prescriptions for patients.
But did you know there are a lot of different kinds of pharmacists who work with patients during their cancer treatment?
There are pharmacists who work in hospitals, clinics and specialty pharmacies. They all work together with the other members of the health care team to guarantee that every patient is getting the safest care possible.
Community pharmacists are the most well-known kind of pharmacists. Also known as retail pharmacists, they work in a pharmacy that is open to the public to fill prescriptions. Duties include:
- Ensuring all medications are able to be refilled quickly and safely. This includes those medications that help prevent and lessen side effects from cancer treatment.
- Delivering medications and refills directly to the patient while they’re receiving their infusions. This helps to avoid the hassle of waiting in lines after a long day of treatment.
- Working with insurance companies to help reduce medication costs.
Hospital pharmacists work within the hospital to help care for cancer patients who need help managing toxicities related to their treatment. They help patients become strong enough to leave the hospital and return safely to their homes. They also help care for patients receiving treatment who need more frequent checking. Some of their other duties include:
- Working together with other members of the health care team to provide services like pain control.
- Reviewing every medication patients are getting to make sure it’s the right drug in the right amount, the right way, at the right time.
- Providing education about medications to other members of the health care team, patients and family members.
Pharmacists also work at infusion clinics where cancer patients receive chemotherapy. These pharmacists are involved in:
- Modifying, reviewing and double checking the chemotherapy and other treatments the patients will receive.
- Double checking home medication lists to make sure there are no interactions with any new drugs they’ll be receiving. This is why it’s important to always update your clinic pharmacists if you’re stopping or starting a new medication.
- Providing education to patients and families on how to manage some of the more common side effects from treatment.
- Making sure the patient has all of the medications they need to manage side effects such as nausea and diarrhea.
Many pharmacists are available to talk with patients either in person, over the phone or over a video chat to make sure all of their questions and concerns are answered.
Sometimes, patients will receive cancer-fighting treatment that they can take in pill form by mouth. These medications require very close monitoring and can be expensive, so they’re not able to be filled at most community pharmacies. Specialty pharmacists are in charge of:
- Working with patients to help manage these prescriptions.
- Helping with complicated insurance paperwork.
- Providing education to patients and their families about how to best use their medications.
Specialty pharmacists can often take the stress out of refills by sending the medications directly to the patient’s home or a nearby community pharmacy to be picked up.
Pharmacists understand that managing medication conditions can be stressful and time consuming, but they want you to know they’re available to help you each step of the process. After all, caring for patients means more than providing prescriptions.
Whenever you have questions about prescriptions or over-the-counter medications, a pharmacist can help. And for cancer survivors, your pharmacists will likely be a crucial part of your cancer care team.
Brittany Jensen is a pharmacist at Aurora Cancer Care in South Eastern Wisconsin.
About the Author
Brittany Jensen, PharmD is a pharmacist at Aurora Cancer Care in South Eastern Wisconsin.