Who is On Your Breast Cancer Care Team?
One of the first questions you will ask after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is, “Who should I go to for treatment?” Choosing a knowledgeable and skilled cancer care team you can talk to easily is one of the most important things you’ll do in your cancer treatment journey.
Rocky Mountain Breast Specialists (RMBS) is a multidisciplinary breast cancer treatment center. This means we have medical oncologists and breast cancer surgeons who work closely together as well as other physicians and staff who treat and support our breast cancer patients.
Who Makes Up Your Breast Cancer Team?
Which Doctor Should You See First After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis?
Ideally, you will consult with a breast cancer medical oncologist and a breast cancer surgeon at about the same time.
Breast Cancer Medical Oncologist
A breast cancer medical oncologist specializes in all aspects of treating breast cancer and often acts as the overseer of all the various types of treatments given to a patient. They collaborate closely with the surgeons as well as other physicians who are a part of each patient’s care.
Breast Cancer Surgeon
A breast cancer surgeon specializes in removing breast cancer through various procedures. A surgeon who specializes in breast cancer is trained in the best ways to make the outcome as cosmetically pleasing as possible, and regularly works with a plastic surgeon who can rebuild the breasts if desired.
The RMBS medical oncologists work closely with experienced breast cancer surgeons to develop a personalized treatment plan for each patient. Although they aren’t always together in your initial consultation, they will talk with one another about the best treatments and the right timing before you arrive for your first consultation.
Who Else is on the Breast Cancer Care Team?
There are a host of other RMBS team members, in addition to the medical oncologist and breast cancer surgeon, who help patients throughout their treatment process, addressing their physical, mental, and emotional health. Because every treatment plan varies depending on the specifics of the diagnosis, your course of treatment will be uniquely yours. This means you may not interact with all of the team members.
Other Physicians Who Are Part of the Breast Cancer Treatment Team
The following physicians work closely with the RMBS medical oncologist leading the breast cancer treatment process.
These are doctors who specialize in treating cancer with radiation therapy. They will review the patient’s needs to determine if and when radiation therapy is most appropriate. The radiation oncologist will also recommend the type of radiation therapy to be used. If external beam radiation is recommended, they will set up a “simulation” session using CT scans and a simulator to determine the correct angle of the radiation beams and the dosage.
This surgeon helps reconstruct the breast after a mastectomy. Not everyone chooses to have reconstructive surgery. If you do, try to meet with the plastic surgeon before your breast cancer removal surgery to discuss types of reconstruction and the timing. The breast cancer surgeons at RMBS can recommend plastic surgeons who are experienced in breast reconstruction after cancer surgery.
Additional Team Members Who Work with Breast Cancer Patients
Triage nurses: These nurses work side by side with the medical oncologist to be sure your treatment plan is carried out. They play an important role in communicating with the patient and making sure the physician is made aware of any concerns or questions so they can be addressed. The nurses also help you manage side effects, assist with placing prescription orders for use at home, and can point you in the right direction for assistance with other challenges you might encounter throughout treatment.
Infusion nurses: These nurses provide chemotherapy and other infusions as needed per the treatment plan created by the medical oncologist. They’re with the patients in the cancer center’s infusion room throughout their treatments and can help you with any treatment side effects you may experience.
Radiation technicians: These technicians help to get you in the proper position for each radiation therapy treatment and help address any side effects.
Genetic counselor: Genetic testing may be recommended based on your family history. The results of genetic tests can help you identify information that may change your breast cancer treatment plan. This important information can also be shared with your family and children for their own cancer screening needs.
Schedulers: Our friendly team of schedulers will make sure your appointments are set and can assist with other general questions.
Social worker: Oncology social workers are able to help patients with the day-to-day challenges they may face with their mental and emotional health during cancer treatment. They’re able to provide resources that can assist in the ways you need it most.
Patient financial counselor: This person will review your insurance coverage so you have a good understanding of what is covered and what is expected for your portion of the treatment costs. They can help you set up payment plans and can often help find resources that are used to offset the cost of some cancer therapies.
How to Select Your Breast Cancer Team
Do Your Research to Find a Good Fit
It’s likely that your gynecologist or the primary care physicians who diagnosed you will offer a referral to an oncology team. It’s important to do your research before booking with that practice.
- Does the oncologist specialize in breast cancer?
- Does the oncologist work as part of a multidisciplinary team with other breast cancer experts?
- Look at the practice’s website to review the doctor, but also look around at third-party review sites to learn about others’ experiences.
- Evaluate where they’re located and whether that’s convenient for you.
- If you call to request an appointment, evaluate the staff’s interactions with you. Did they make you feel comfortable?
- Does your insurance cover treatment with that practice? The financial counselor at RMBS will review your insurance and let you know what’s covered.
Opt for a Second Opinion
When it comes to selecting your breast cancer care team, you want to make sure that you have a group of health care professionals that you can count on. There is nothing wrong with meeting with multiple doctors before selecting the one that best fits your needs. It is incredibly important that you feel comfortable communicating with your cancer team and that you have trust in them. Don’t hesitate to meet with a different oncologist to get a second opinion.
Having knowledgeable providers you find easy to communicate with will help you feel empowered as you move through the journey of fighting breast cancer. Rocky Mountain Breast Specialists provides care for breast cancer patients throughout Colorado including Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Boulder, Centennial, Littleton, Longmont, Lone Tree, Louisville, Thornton, and Pueblo.