If you have breast cancer, you will need to see a number of different health professionals. Your first point of contact will usually be your GP. They will arrange the initial tests to assess your symptoms. If these tests do not rule out cancer, you will probably be referred to a specialist doctor for more tests and treatment.
Once your treatment for breast cancer begins, you will be looked after by a range of health professionals who specialise in different areas of your care. Your GP will usually continue to play a key role in your care throughout your treatment.
The different roles
Specialists and other health professionals will take a team-based approach to your care as part of a multidisciplinary team (MDT). The following health professionals may be in your MDT.
- GP – works in partnership with your specialist in providing your ongoing care
- Breast surgeon – specialises in surgery and performs biopsies; some breast surgeons also perform breast reconstruction and specialised oncoplastic procedures
- Oncoplastic breast surgeon – specialises in using plastic surgery techniques to achieve a good cosmetic outcome after surgery
- Reconstructive (plastic) surgeon – performs breast reconstruction for women who have had a mastectomy
- Anaesthetist – administers anaesthetic before surgery and monitors you during the operation
- Pathologist – examines cells and tissue samples that are removed from the breast to determine the type and extent of the cancer
- Breast care nurses – specialist nurses who are trained in breast cancer care and provide information and support through all stages of treatment and ongoing care
- Nurses – administer drugs and provide care, information and support throughout your treatment
- Radiologist – specialises in reading x-rays, such as mammograms
- Radiation oncologist – prescribes and coordinates the course of radiotherapy
- Radiation therapist – plans and delivers radiotherapy
- Medical oncologist – prescribes and coordinates the course of chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy
- Lymphoedema practitioner/therapist – educates people about lymphoedema prevention and management, and provides treatment if lymphoedema occurs
- Dietitian – recommends an eating plan to follow during treatment and recovery
- Physiotherapist, occupational therapist – assist in restoring range of movement after surgery, and help with practical issues
- Social worker – links you to support services and helps with emotional, physical or practical issues
- Genetic counsellor – provides advice for people with a strong family history of breast cancer
- Psychiatrist, counsellor, psychologist – provide emotional support and help manage feelings of anxiety and depression