People with breast cancer can benefit greatly from having a medical team. This usually includes a primary care physician and several possible specialists they trust and can easily communicate with.
Your primary care doctor should help steer you to the correct specialist. These specialists can include:
- an oncologist
- a surgeon
- a radiologist
- a radiation oncologist
Be ready with written information about yourself. Remember to include 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 diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Your oncologist will confirm the diagnosis of breast cancer. They will then stage the cancer to determine the course of treatment. They will also be the primary manager of your ongoing cancer therapy and treatment plans. Your oncologist will most likely refer you to other specialists as needed.
A surgical oncologist is a surgeon who specializes in tumor removal. Your oncologist will likely refer you to a surgical oncologist if they determine that a lumpectomy or mastectomy is needed.
A radiologist is a doctor specializing 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. An X-ray technician will perform your regular screening mammography, as well as any additional diagnostic mammography needed. Radiologists will also interpret any additional diagnostic testing that is performed to assist in staging your breast cancer.
Your oncologist will refer you to a radiation oncologist if they determine that radiation therapy is needed as part of your treatment. A radiation oncologist is a radiologist who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.
If you have relatives who have had breast cancer you may want to schedule an appointment with a genetic counselor. They can 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 as well as the risks for your offspring and other closely related members of your biologic family.