Treating breast cancer in the 21st Century is like going to war. It takes an army of specialists (teams within teams) to contain it, control it, defeat it, and aid in your recovery. The more we learn about breast cancer, the more specialists arise and bring their expertise to the fight.
Here are, not five individuals, but five teams, every member of which, is dedicated to helping you through the breast cancer ordeal.
You find a lump while doing a self-exam. To borrow a phrase from a movie, “Who you gonna call?” The journey starts with your primary care doctor. So, let’s start with the MD team.
Primary Care Physician – The doc you trust who will probably order some initial tests and refer you to the appropriate specialists.
Radiologist – The doctor who will read and interpret your mammogram and other scans, including an ultrasound, CT and MRI. He may also perform a biopsy, if needed.
Medical Oncologist – As your journey progresses, she or he becomes your team coordinator. Often specializes in breast cancer.
Breast Surgeon – If you decided on a lumpectomy or mastectomy, this is your doc.
Radiation Oncologist – A specialist in precision radiation therapy to eliminate tumors.
Plastic Surgeon – Joins the team after the initial surgery to reconstruct or restore body tissue.
Nurses are the heart of the medical profession. Clinical nurses care for your daily needs during hospital stays and keep you informed along the way. You may meet nurses with additional training who specialize in oncology, surgery, infusion, and more. If you have fears (which would be natural) and questions, ask your nurse.
3. Technicians & Specialists
Your team will include some individuals with whom you will have direct contact and others who are working behind the scenes. Here are just two specialists you may meet:
Radiology Technician — After your Primary Care Physician, the second person you may meet on your journey may be the technician who administers your mammogram or other diagnostic imaging procedure.
Nutritionists / Dieticians – Diet is very important during cancer treatment. It is essential that you give your body the proper fuel to help fight the disease. These specialists will help you plan an appropriate diet.
4. Supporting Roles
Non-medical professionals can play crucial parts in your treatment and recovery. Your Social Worker or Case Manager can help you navigate the bumpy road ahead and facilitate communication with your team. She or he will relay your fears and help you manage specific issues that arise, such as transportation. Depending on your religious beliefs, a Spiritual Counselor may help you cope with your situation. Albie Aware can refer you to medical and non-medical professionals, help you coordinate testing, and match you with a volunteer who can accompany you to appointments and treatments, and just be there to listen.
5. Family and Friends
You own personal support system may be the most important part of your team. They can be there to make phone calls, give you rides, accompany you to appointments, take notes, listen to your concerns, and hold your hand.
Additional Team Members
Your Oncologist will, no doubt, call on the skills of a Pathologist. You may also be referred to a Genetic Counselor. To help you deal with the strain of your ordeal, you may choose to visit a Psychologist or Therapist. The point is that you have abundant resources to help you fight and overcome breast cancer.