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They’re specially trained to make cancer care less complex.

If you’re being treated for cancer, you’re probably taking a range of medications, likely in the clinic, at an infusion center and at home. Making sure you have all your medications and taking them according to your doctor’s orders is essential to managing your health.

One member of your care team who specializes in this area: an oncology pharmacist. Besides supplying the medications you need, an oncology pharmacist can tell you how and when to take them. They help manage your symptoms and medication side effects to make you as comfortable as possible during treatment. And they can even find ways to lower your prescription costs.

What is an oncology pharmacist?

An oncology pharmacist has special training in cancer treatment. That means they understand all the medications your doctor has prescribed, including how they work and the possible side effects.

How can they help with cancer treatment?

Your oncology pharmacist works with your doctors to make sure you have the medications and support you need, as well as to help adjust your cancer treatment as your condition changes. They’ll reach out to you periodically by phone, and in some cases, you may be able to call them directly for help with:

  • Keeping track of your medication plan, including in-clinic treatments like infusion therapy and the medications you take at home
  • Understanding any changes your doctor makes to your medications, dosage or schedule
  • Getting access to all the medications you need, and working with insurance to help save you money
  • Understanding the side effects you can expect and how to relieve them
  • Making sure any underlying chronic conditions, like diabetes or heart disease, are managed properly during your treatment

“We have experience working with patients being treated for cancer,” says Kara Cooper, PharmD, an oncology clinical pharmacist based at Geisinger. “By suggesting strategies, we can make sure you never miss an infusion therapy session or a dose of home medication. And when your doctor changes your plan as your treatment progresses, we’ll help you incorporate the changes into your medication schedule.”

Can an oncology pharmacist save you money on medications?

Yes, often they can. If your cancer treatment medications are expensive or not covered by your insurance, your pharmacist works with your doctor and health insurer to find alternatives that treat you in the same way — but cost less. They can also tell you about any manufacturer discount programs that will reduce your medication copays.

How to get the most from your oncology pharmacist

Use them as a resource and be sure to ask for help whenever you need it. You can talk with your oncology pharmacist in person when you’re receiving treatment. And in some cases, you can call with questions from home.

“Cancer treatment can be complicated, especially when you’re newly diagnosed,” says clinical pharmacist Jessica Curtis, PharmD. “We work with your doctor to develop your medication plan, and we’ll help you understand exactly what you have to do to make your treatment successful.”

Next steps:

Learn about cancer care at Geisinger
Explore more options to save on prescriptions
See other ways a clinical pharmacist can benefit your health

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