Women with breast cancer can greatly benefit by having a medical team, including a primary care physician and several possible specialists that they are confident in and with whom they can easily communicate.
Primary care physician
Your primary care doctor should help steer you to the correct specialist, whether it’s an oncologist, surgeon, radiologist, radiation oncologist, or genetic counselor. Be ready with written information about yourself, including symptoms and family history, and questions about breast cancer for appointments with any of your cancer doctors.
An oncologist is a doctor who specializes in the medicine, diagnosis, and treatment of tumors. Your oncologist will administer the tests necessary to determine whether or not you have breast cancer and will then stage the cancer in order to determine the course of treatment. He or she will also be the primary manager of your ongoing cancer therapy and palliative care. Your oncologist will most likely refer you to other specialists as needed.
Surgeon (surgical oncologist)
A surgical oncologist is a surgeon who specializes in tumor removal. If your oncologist determines that a lumpectomy or mastectomy is needed, he or she will most likely refer you to a surgical oncologist.
A radiologist is a doctor who specializes in the branch of medicine that uses imaging technologies such as X-ray, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose and treat diseases. A radiologist will perform your regular screening mammography, as well as any additional diagnostic mammography needed.
If your oncologist determines that radiation therapy is needed as part of your breast cancer treatment, he or she will refer you to a radiation oncologist. A radiation oncologist is a radiologist who specializes in treating cancer.
If you have relatives who have had breast cancer, you may want to schedule an appointment with a genetic counselor, who can administer tests for BRCA1 and 2 gene mutations, as well as other genes that predispose women to breast cancer. A genetic counselor can’t diagnose a condition but can provide you with vital information to help you understand your risks.