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
Who Is Who On
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
• Physical Therapist: A specialist who helps
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
• 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
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.
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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