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 and how to use medication to treat them. They also figure out the risk of the breast cancer coming back, as well as the need for more treatments (such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or radiation therapy). The medical oncologist manages your overall medical care for cancer and monitors your health during your treatment. He or she checks your progress frequently, reviews your lab and X-ray results, and coordinates your medical care before and after your treatment.
- Surgical oncologist. A doctor who specializes in the surgical treatment of cancer. Surgical oncologists perform biopsies and other operations such as removing a lump or a breast. These doctors have completed their general surgery training and have received additional training in surgical oncology.
- Breast surgeon. A doctor who specializes in the surgical removal of breast tumors and lymph nodes while saving as much of the breast as possible. These doctors may also do biopsies to diagnose or treat the cancer.
- Plastic surgeon. A surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction.
- Radiologist. A doctor who is trained in reading X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, and other forms of imaging that look into the body.
- Pathologist. A doctor who checks tissue samples under a microscope. Pathologists decide 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.
- Radiation oncologist. A doctor trained in treating cancer with radiation.
Other health care professionals may be involved in your breast cancer treatment, including:
- Oncology nurses. Nurses with special skills who pass a certifying test.
- Radiation technologist. 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 medical schools. In addition, the American Board of Medical Specialties publishes TheOfficial 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 www.abms.org or at most public libraries.