What doctors and specialists treat breast cancer?

I work with a lot of different specialists. One is the radiologists who read the mammograms and the breast ultrasounds. We talk back and forth a lot. I ask lots of questions. And then I work with the pathologists who are responsible for looking at the tissue that's biopsied. We talk back and forth about what they see. The medical oncologist would be the cancer specialist who would be in charge of what I call "the chemical"—so chemotherapy, sometimes pills. We talk a lot, and I also collaborate with the radiation oncologist. So that's another type of cancer specialist that gives radiation therapy. Also the nurses. The nursing staff is important. The operating room team. Physical therapists and occupational therapists are also part of the team. We talk a lot about if a patient is having some scarring after surgery. She's got some limited range of motion, maybe she's got lymphedema, which is the swelling of the arm or the hand, then I'm in close contact with a therapist to make sure they get the treatment that they need to loosen that tissue up.

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The health professionals who may be involved with the care of your cancer include:

  • Gynecologist or OB/GYN, family practitioner or other primary care provider
  • Oncologist
  • Radiation therapist
  • Nurse/oncology nurse specialist
  • Radiologist
  • Pathologist
  • General surgeon or breast surgeon
  • Reconstructive/plastic surgeon
  • Genetic counselor
  • Oncology social worker
  • Psychologist/psychiatrist
  • Nutritionists and dietitians

Remember, you are a critical part of your breast cancer team. Always talk with members of your healthcare team if you have concerns or are unsure about anything related to your cancer treatment plan. Consider taking an advocate (a family member or friend) with you to your medical appointments. This person can take notes and serve as a "second ear" when you are feeling overwhelmed with information or too fatigued to absorb a lot of details. Ask about available support groups, too. It's always reassuring to know that there are other women who are going through treatment and have many of the same questions and concerns.

Dr. Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgeon

Treatment of breast cancer requires multiple specialties. Radiologist will often read the findings from the mammograms while the general surgeon will often perform the excisional biopsy and later mastectomy. The plastic and reconstructive surgeon is responsible for the recreation of a new breast with implants and tissue transfers. The surgical oncologist is responsible for the perioperative chemotherapy and radiation treatments and follow-up. Treating breast cancer requires a solid network of specialized physicians working together to diagnose, treat and follow the patient in the future.

Breast cancer treatment requires a team effort by doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Once your primary doctor has all the information about your breast cancer, you'll talk with your team about the treatments you'll need. Your treatment team may include:

  • Anesthesiologist
  • Cancer Nurse Navigator
  • Genetic counselor
  • Health psychologist
  • Medical oncologist
  • Pathologist
  • Physical therapist/occupational therapist
  • Plastic surgeon
  • Radiation oncologist
  • Radiologist
  • Surgeon
  • Nationally accredited breast care centers

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.