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Your medical team

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Your healthcare providers are a key part of your support team. Many hospitals take a team-based approach to care, meaning your providers 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 this person listen to my questions and concerns?”

The people below may be involved in your care. They are organized in the order in which you might meet them throughout treatment.

Radiologist

A radiologist reads pictures of organs and tissues and looks for disease. The radiologist reads 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.

Pathologist

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

Genetic counselor

A genetic counselor is trained to talk to you about your family history of cancer. This person can tell you about genetic testing and help you decide if testing is right for you.

Reproductive endocrinologist

A reproductive endocrinologist is an expert on fertility. Meeting with this type of doctor early on, before treatment begins if possible, can help you understand how breast cancer treatment could affect your ability to become pregnant in the future. He or she can explain what to do to improve your chances of having biological children.

Surgical oncologist

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.

Medical oncologist

A medical oncologist diagnoses and treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted 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.

Nurse navigator

A nurse navigator is a nurse who guides you and your caregivers through the healthcare system so you can get the information you need to make informed decisions about treatment.

Video Link: How a nurse navigator can improve your care

Patient navigator

A patient navigator is a nurse, social worker or person who helps you and your loved ones quickly get access to the tools you need to get treatment and keep your quality of life.

Radiation oncologist

A radiation oncologist treats cancer with radiation therapy.

Plastic or reconstructive surgeon

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

Primary care physician

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

Medical oncology nurse

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 targeted treatments. They also can help you manage side effects and the emotional aspects of dealing with cancer.

Surgical oncology nurse

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.

Nurse practitioner

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse with special training in the treatment and emotional needs of people with cancer. NPs can give or prescribe medicine and help you manage side effects and access support services.

Social worker or counselor

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

Physician assistant

A physician assistant is a licensed health provider who can diagnose and treat cancer with a doctor’s oversight. PAs can order tests, assist with surgery, and prescribe medicine.

Physical therapist

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.

 

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Living Beyond Breast Cancer is a national nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world that understands there is more than one way to have breast cancer. To fulfill its mission of providing trusted information and a community of support to those impacted by the disease, Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers on-demand emotional, practical, and evidence-based content. For over 30 years, the organization has remained committed to creating a culture of acceptance — where sharing the diversity of the lived experience of breast cancer fosters self-advocacy and hope. For more information, learn more about our programs and services.