Breast Cancer: Your Healthcare Team

Breast cancer is usually best treated by a team of healthcare professionals who work together, often at a hospital or other healthcare facility. Your team members may include:

Breast surgeon: This surgeon specializes in operations on the breast. Whenever possible seek out a breast surgical oncologist.

Primary care doctor: Physicians who tracks your overall health

Pathologist: Doctor who identifies and grades diseases by studying cells

Surgical oncologist: This is a surgeon who specializes in treating cancer. If your treatment plan involves mastectomy or lumpectomy, a surgical oncologist should perform the surgery. Many surgical oncologists specialize in breast cancer and have completed a fellowship training program to specialize in this disease.

Reconstructive plastic surgeon: This doctor rebuilds a breast after breast cancer surgery.

Medical oncologist: This doctor generally oversees the team once a diagnosis of breast cancer is established. He or she will coordinate with other members of the healthcare team and will likely manage chemotherapy treatments, if prescribed.

Nurse practitioner: An Advanced Practice Nurse who can provide high-quality care and treatment to patients. They can diagnose and treat a variety of health problems and inform patients about lifestyle changes that can improve their health.

Physicians assistant: Health professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. They perform a comprehensive range of medical duties, from basic primary care to high-technology specialty procedures.

Mammographer: Physician or technologist who prepares and interprets mammograms

Radiation oncologist: This doctor will develop a treatment plan for radiation therapy if it is required.

Oncology nurse: This professional provides care and education to cancer patients.

Oncology social worker: Professional who addresses psychosocial and financial needs of cancer patients

Patient navigator: A patient navigator facilitates a cancer patient through the healthcare system, ensuring they receive care efficiently, get educated about their disease and its treatment, and work through the healthcare system to ensure that the patient receives multidisciplinary care. Some specific functions can be helping the patient deal with financial issues, insurance and all other issues so that the patient can focus on recovery and treatment. Most navigators today in cancer centers are registered nurses.

In addition to the above professionals, support groups are frequently available through your treatment center. Patients can also be linked up with a survivor volunteer by contacting the American Cancer Society, the Komen for the Cure organization, Network of Strength, or other community volunteer resources. Dietitians can help with healthy food choices. Pharmacists may become trusted allies as well, since medication may be needed to help manage treatment side effects.