Treatment planning is the phase where you and your healthcare team will plan the treatments that lay ahead. Your healthcare team will work together to decide, based on your stage of cancer and test results, the best course for treatment for you. Your treatment plan is unique to you and your needs. This phase is also the time when you can plan how to manage your daily life while on treatment and during care.
Your Treatment Team
Determining the best treatment plan for you will involve a team of healthcare providers. Your oncologist and oncology team will be the primary managers of your care, guiding you through the entire experience. Other healthcare providers will be delivering specific care, such as treatments (surgery and radiation therapy) and support (nutrition and therapy).
Here are some of the different types of specialists who may be part of your healthcare team:
- medical oncologists who prescribe treatments to fight your cancer
- surgical oncologists who are experienced in breast cancer surgical techniques
- radiation oncologists who specialize in targeting your breast cancer with radiation
- radiologists who read your mammograms and other imaging tests
- pathologists who perform the analyses of your biopsies
- physical therapists who can help treat side effects related to breast cancer treatment, such as lymphedema
- plastic and reconstructive surgeons who may provide breast reconstruction after surgery
- nutritionists who help you with questions about diet and nutrition during treatment
- oncology nurses who care for patients with cancer
- psychiatrists and social workers, who help manage the cognitive side effects of cancer and treatment, as well the emotional and spiritual aspects of the cancer experience
- palliative care providers who improve quality of life
Your Treatment Plan
There are two approaches that your healthcare team may use to decide your treatment plan. The first is through a tumor board. In this approach, your oncologist, surgeon, radiologist, and other clinicians in your healthcare team will plan your treatment as a team. The tumor board typically occurs all in one day. There will be assessment and discussion of your treatment. A tumor board may be overwhelming because you will be meeting with your entire healthcare team at once. However, it is a highly effective step because everyone is gathered together and working toward finding the best plan for you.
If a tumor board is not available in your area, your treatment plan may be managed through your oncologist. They will act as the lead clinician and be responsible for coordinating your treatment plan with the other members of your healthcare team. Instead of treatment planning occurring in one day, you will have separate visits and discussions with the individual healthcare providers in your team.
Finding Support During Treatment
Having breast cancer doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a break from your existing daily responsibilities and activities during treatment. There may be many unforeseen bumps in the road that you cannot plan for. However, taking the time to think through various decisions you may have to make during treatment can help you manage your life.
With the support of others, some areas where you may have to plan include:
- financial planning
- career and work
- self: emotional and psychological needs