Breast Cancer Doctors and Specialists
What Does Each Specialist Do?
- Medical oncologist. A doctor who specializes in the medical treatment of cancer. Medical oncologists have a thorough knowledge of how cancers behave and grow. This knowledge is used to determine the risk of recurrence of breast cancer, as well as the need for and benefits of additional or adjuvant therapy (such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or radiation therapy). The medical oncologist manages your overall medical care in relationship to the cancer and monitors your general health during your course of treatment. He or she checks your progress frequently, reviews your lab and X-ray results, and coordinates your medical care before and after your course of treatment.
- Radiologists. Specialists who are trained at interpreting X-rays or other forms of imaging that look into the body.
- Breast surgeons. Doctors who specialize in the surgical removal of breast tumors while conserving as much of the breast as possible. These doctors may also perform biopsies to diagnose or treat the cancer.
- Surgical oncologist. A doctor who performs biopsies and other surgical procedures such as removing a lump or a breast. These doctors have completed their general surgery residency and have gone on to receive additional training in surgical oncology.
- Pathologists. Doctors who check tissue samples under a microscope. They determine whether cancer is present, its size, whether the surgery removed all the cancer, and how many lymph nodes have cancer, if any. The pathologist's report also tells the stage of a cancer.
- Plastic surgeons. Surgeons who specialize in state-of-the-art breast reconstructive techniques.
- Radiation oncologist. A doctor trained in cancer treatment using radiation therapy.
- Pathologist. A doctor who checks a tissue sample for cancer, its size, whether surgery removed it all, and how many lymph nodes have cancer, if any. The pathologist determines the stage of the disease.
In addition to specialists, other medical professionals may be involved in your breast cancer treatment, including:
- Oncology nurses. Nurses with special skills who pass a certifying test.
- Radiationtechnologist. A professional who helps place you in the correct treatment position and delivers the proper radiation dose to the proper site.
- Radiation physicist. A professional who helps plan the radiation dosage and treatment field to make it as safe as possible.
How Do I Find a Specialist to Treat my Breast Cancer?
Your primary care doctor can refer you to a specialist to treat your breast cancer. You can also get the names of specialists from a medical society, your local hospitals, and from medical schools. In addition, the American Board of Medical Specialties (www.abms.org) publishes the Official ABMS Directory of Board-Certified Medical Specialists. This publication lists a specialist's name, education, and specialty field. The directory can be purchased, but it is also available at no charge through their website or at most public libraries.