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Breast Cancer: Choosing Your Doctors

Since few cancers require emergency treatment, take time to learn about your breast cancer diagnosis and to choose the doctors and hospitals where you will be treated.

How to Find a Breast Cancer Specialist

Your own primary care doctor is probably the first source to ask for a referral to cancer specialists. Your doctor will know from experience who is the most appropriate cancer specialist in your area. Also, you can search online for reliable web sites of hospitals, medical organizations like the American College of Surgeons or American Society of Clinical Oncology, universities, medical schools, or the federal government. These are all acceptable ways to find cancer specialists and learn more about the disease.

Researching Credentials

Once you have a few names, take note of:

  • How many procedures or cases the doctor has been involved with
  • Areas of special interest or research
  • Which hospitals the doctor is affiliated with
  • Whether the doctor is board-certified in the area of specialization
  • Any fellowships completed in cancer care (surgery, radiation therapy, medical oncology)
  • Where the doctor was trained

Hospitals offer free and confidential telephone or online physician referral services that offer information about a doctor's professional background. Insurance companies can provide names of cancer specialists or referral requirements.

Meeting Your Breast Cancer Team

Cancer is a disease best treated by a team of experts trained in different fields. Depending on the course of treatment, a breast cancer patient will likely meet several members of the cancer team.

  • Surgery may be performed by a general surgeon or a surgical oncologist, a surgeon who specializes in treating cancer, with many specializing in breast cancer.
  • A medical oncologist oversees the course of cancer treatment for most patients and also manages any chemotherapy patients might receive.
  • A radiation oncologist is a doctor who will develop a treatment plan for radiation therapy if it's required.

Depending on the size of the hospital or institution, the team can also include plastic surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, medical specialists in obstetrics/gynecology and other areas, oncology nurses, pharmacists, social workers, dietitians, and more.

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