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Breast Cancer Basics
Early Detection
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Your Healthcare Team




Your Healthcare Team
Cancer is a complicated disease and no single physician can be an expert in all aspects of the treatment. Developing a treatment plan is a complex task that will involve a number of healthcare professionals—a real team of experts—who will give you their recommendations regarding surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.



Some hospitals and cancer centers already have such teams of breast cancer experts, called multidisciplinary teams. If yours doesn't, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen For The Cure, or the Breast Cancer Network of Strength (fomerly known as Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization) have resources that will help you find healthcare professionals to add to your team, or to give you a second opinion.

You may want to seek out specialists in specific areas of interest to you, such as chemotherapy or breast reconstruction. Or you may establish a relationship with a generalist who will help you sift through the information you are receiving, or whom you could call with questions that crop up at a time when your regular team is not available.

 


Who Is Who On the Team
Here is a list of specialists who may be involved in your treatment:


Anesthesiologist: Administers drugs or gasses which put you to sleep before surgery.

Clinical Nurse Specialist: A nurse with training or knowledge in a specific area, such as post-operative care, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Medical Oncologist: A doctor who administers anti-cancer drugs or chemotherapy.

Pathologist: A doctor who examines the tissue removed during
a biopsy, and issues a report to help you and your doctor choose the most effective treatment.

Personal Physician: The doctor who will be responsible for coordinating your treatment. Your personal physician may be a surgeon, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, or family physician.

Physical Therapist: A specialist who helps with post-surgical
rehabilitation using exercise, heat, or massage.

Plastic Surgeon: A doctor specializing in cosmetic surgery, such as breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

Radiation Oncologist: A physician specially trained in using
high-energy X-rays for treatment.

Radiation Therapy Technologist: A technologist who works under the direction of the Radiation Oncologist to administer radiation treatment.

Social Worker: A trained professional who can deal with social and economic aspects of treatment, such as helping find a support group or solving an insurance issue.

Surgeon: A doctor specializing in surgery, who will do the initial operation on the cancer.

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Getting a Second Opinion
The treatment of your breast cancer is probably the most important issue you will ever face. For your own peace of mind, now and in the future, you may consider getting a second opinion. You are entitled to evaluate all your options, and no competent healthcare provider will object to your listening to another viewpoint.



 


Changing Doctors
Sometimes you may find that you are not getting along with one of the physicians treating you. The physician may seem abrupt, aloof, and uncaring, or fails to convince you of his competence. If this creates a barrier, let the physician know you wish to see someone else. The physician is probably as aware as you that a relationship based on trust and open communication has not been established, and will be happy to transfer your records to another practitioner.

But remember, a decision to change physicians should be based on reality and not on a quest to find a doctor who will promise a cure, or guarantee to relieve all your fears.

 

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