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Breast Cancer: Choosing Your Doctors

What Is an NCI Cancer Center?

The National Cancer Institute -- or NCI -- is a branch of the federal government that has designated a select group of 60 medical institutions in over 30 states as cancer centers.

The highest rating is a National Cancer Institute designated "comprehensive cancer center," which is generally associated with larger medical institutions, universities, or medical schools. They offer the latest in medications, new techniques, state-of-the-art equipment, and access to clinical trials. Their doctors stay current in the newest methods in treating cancer.

Call the Cancer Information Service (1-800-4-CANCER) (1-800-422-6237), 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, for more information about cancer treatment centers in your area. Calls are answered in English and Spanish. The service serves deaf and hearing-impaired callers through the toll-free TTY number (1-800-332-8615).

Or for a list of cancer centers online, go to

Choosing Your Support for Breast Cancer

It's important not to neglect your emotional health during cancer treatment. Cancer patients, families, friends, and caregivers need support in varying ways during this difficult time.

  • Cancer doctors or nurses can direct patients or families to a social worker familiar with support groups or individual support to help you cope.
  • An oncology social worker may be available to meet with families or patients to address emotional issues, financial difficulties, insurance questions, discharge planning, transportation, and home or hospice care.
  • Hospitals organize seminars or programs that educate patients about cancer, provide support, and offer walk-a-thons and other activities for women with cancer.
  • A dietitian can offer ways to make meals more nutritious and appealing.
  • A psychologist can address more serious emotional challenges, such as depression or anxiety, which are common in cancer patients.
  • A hospital chaplain uses spiritual and clinical training to address the spiritual needs of patients and families.
  • Hospitals often have libraries or resource centers that are open to patients.

Online Breast Cancer Resources

There are thousands of web sites that offer information and advice to cancer patients. While some are reliable and concise, other sites are misleading or even dangerous.

  • Seek out reputable web sites run by the U.S. government, like the National Cancer Institute, or an organization you know about, such as those offered by the American Cancer Society, that offer current and reliable information.
  • Avoid web sites or chat rooms that offer "miracle cures" or try to convince patients to try methods that sound too good to be true.
  • Be careful when giving out personal information on line.

The person with breast cancer is not the only one affected. Family members and friends are also influenced by health changes of a loved one. See Tips for Family to learn how to cope with a loved one's diagnosis and be supportive.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on March 19, 2013

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