Your health care team
Your general practitioner (GP) will arrange the first tests to assess your symptoms. If these tests do not rule out cancer, you’ll usually be referred to a specialist breast service for further tests.
If breast cancer is diagnosed, you will usually first see a breast surgeon who will consider treatment options. Often these will be discussed with other health professionals at what is known as a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting.
During and after treatment, you will see a range of health professionals who specialise in different aspects of your care. They may include:
- GP – assists you with treatment decisions and works in partnership with your specialists in providing ongoing care
- Breast physician – diagnoses breast cancer and coordinates treatment for breast cancer in some clinics
- Breast surgeon – specialises in surgery and performs biopsies; some breast surgeons also perform breast reconstruction and plastic surgery procedures
- Oncoplastic breast surgeon – specialises in using plastic surgery techniques to reconstruct breast tissue 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 work out the type and extent of the cancer
- Breast care nurses – provides information, support and referral to women affected by breast cancer during and after treatment
- Nurse – administers drugs and provides care, information and support throughout treatment
- Radiographer – performs x-rays, mammograms and other scans
- Sonographer – performs ultrasounds
- Radiologist – analyses x-rays, mammograms, ultrasounds and other scans
- Radiation oncologist – treats cancer by prescribing and coordinating a course of radiation therapy
- Radiation therapist – plans and delivers radiation therapy
- Medical oncologist – treats cancer with drug therapies such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy
- Lymphoedema practitioner – educates people about lymphoedema prevention and management, and provides treatment if lymphoedema occurs; often a physiotherapist
- Dietitian – recommends an eating plan to follow during treatment and recovery
- Exercise physiologist – prescribes exercise to help people with medical conditions improve their overall health, fitness, strength and energy levels
- Physiotherapist, occupational therapist – assist with physical and practical problems, including restoring movement and mobility after treatment, and recommending aids and equipment
- Social worker – links you to support services and helps you with emotional, practical or financial issues
- Genetic counsellor – provides advice for people with a strong family history of breast cancer or with a genetic condition linked to breast cancer
- Psychiatrist, counsellor, psychologist – help you manage your emotional response to diagnosis and treatment
Prof Christobel Saunders, Professor of Surgical Oncology and Head, Division of Surgery, The University of Western Australia, and Consultant Surgeon, Royal Perth, Fiona Stanley and St John of God Subiaco Hospitals, WA; Dr Marie-Frances Burke, Radiation Oncologist, Medical Director, Genesis CancerCare Queensland, QLD; Kylie Campbell, Breast Care Nurse and Clinical Lead, Murraylands, McGrath Foundation, SA; Carmen Heathcote, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Annmaree Mitchell, Consumer; Sarah Pratt, Nurse Coordinator, Breast Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Wendy Vincent, Breast Physician, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick, NSW, and Clinical Director BreastScreen NSW, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Nicholas Wilcken, Director of Medical Oncology, Westmead Hospital, and Co-ordinating Editor, Cochrane Breast Cancer Group, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. This booklet is funded through the generosity of the people of Australia.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment