It’s very confusing time when you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, and part of the confusion is meeting – and being referred to – a wide range of medical professionals. Here, we introduce you to who everyone is and what their roles are. Remember that if, at any time, you come across someone who you don’t know and you’re not sure what role they play in your treatment, just ask.
Breast Surgeon These are doctors who specialise in breast surgery. Most people who have surgery as a result of breast cancer (for example, a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, and/or lymph node removal) will have their surgery undertaken by a breast surgeon. Sometimes breast surgeons also carry out breast reconstruction following a mastectomy or lumpectomy, but sometimes reconstruction is carried out by a Plastic Surgeon (or Oncoplastic Surgeon).
Clinical Specialist Nurse (CNS)/ Breast Care Nurse Hospitals often have nurses who are specially trained to look after cancer patients (Clinical Specialist nurses), and a nurse who is specially trained to look after breast cancer patients is a Breast Care Nurse. These nurses work closely with all the other doctors and they will be your main point of contact at the hospital who you can contact with any concerns or questions about your treatment.
Oncologist These are doctors who specialise in treating patients who have cancer. They will plan your treatment according to your personal situation: the type of breast cancer, your tumour size, whether the cancer has spread, your age, whether you are pre- or post-menopausal, if lymph-nodes are involved and a host of other information. Sometimes it can take a little while after your diagnosis for the oncologist to prepare your treatment plan and they have to take lots of information into account, and consider all the possible treatment options.
Oncology Nurse These are nurses who are specially trained in oncology. You will probably come across Chemotherapy Nurses when you go for your chemotherapy treatments – these nurses are specially trained in administering chemotherapy.
Radiologist These are doctors who specialise in looking at breast and body scans such as x-rays, ultrasound, CT, PET, MRI to diagnose cancer.
Radiographer These are technicians who specialise in mammograms and ultrasounds.
Radiotherapy team If part of your treatment plan involves radiotherapy (see our section on Radiotherapy for more information on this form of treatment), you will meet a wide range of therapeutic radiographers within the radiotherapy department: for your initial appointment you might meet a consultant therapeutic radiographer who may consent you for treatment, a pre-treatment therapeutic radiographer who will help take your CT (planning) scan and may give you permanent tattoos if you need them. A dosimetrist or medical physicist will design your personalised radiotherapy treatment plan, and a treatment therapeutic radiographer who will deliver your treatment and answer any questions you have. You may also have a treatment review therapeutic radiographer who will be checking in on you during and after your radiotherapy.
The information and content provided on this page is intended for information and educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your medical team for advice on anything covered in this article.
Sylvie and Danielle began Future Dreams with just £100. Since then we have raised over £6.5m. We couldn’t do any of this without you. Please donate, if we all act now we believe that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live.