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Your Medical Team

Updated September 27, 2010

Your healthcare providers are a key part of your support team. Many hospitals take a team-based approach to care, meaning your doctors work together to follow your case and meet regularly to discuss your treatment.

When putting together your team, ask yourself: “Do I trust and feel confident about this person? Do we communicate well? Did the doctor listen to my questions and concerns?”

These people may play a role in your care:

A radiologist reads pictures of organs and tissues and looks for disease. The radiologist does mammograms, sonograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, CAT scans, bone scans and PET scans. Some radiologists specialize in breast imaging, while others are general radiologists. Sometimes more than one radiologist may be involved in your care.

A pathologist diagnoses disease by looking at tissues under a microscope and figuring out the specific type of breast cancer.

A surgical oncologist removes cancer during surgery. Surgical oncologists are general surgeons who receive special training in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of cancer. In some cases, the surgical oncologist serves as the main doctor in charge of your treatment.

A medical oncologist diagnoses and treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and biologic therapy. In some cases, your medical oncologist serves as the doctor in charge of your case, coordinating your care and communicating with the other doctors on your team.

A radiation oncologist treats cancer with radiation therapy.

A plastic or reconstructive surgeon reshapes or rebuilds the breast after surgery to remove the cancer.

A primary care physician provides you with your regular medical care and may manage your care with your other doctors.

A medical oncology nurse is a registered nurse with special training in the medical and emotional needs of people with cancer. Oncology nurses give anti-cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and biologic treatments. They also can help you manage side effects and the emotional aspects of dealing with cancer.

A surgical oncology nurse is a registered nurse with special training in the surgical treatment and emotional needs of people with cancer. Before surgery, surgical oncology nurses talk to you about surgery and give tests, and after surgery they help you with wounds and ongoing care.

A social worker or counselor talks with you and your family about your emotional needs and helps you find support services.

A physical therapist performs and teaches exercises to help you maintain strength before starting treatment and to improve recovery.

When you start treatment, ask which doctor will coordinate your care. If you have questions, you should be able to contact your main doctor, even if you just want to ask which person to call.

Read more about the providers who helped us write this page in our Guide for the Newly Diagnosed.