People with breast cancer are cared for by a team of healthcare professionals, each with their own expertise. This is known as the multidisciplinary team (MDT).
These are some of the people who will be involved in your care:
- breast care nurse – a nurse who provides information and support to people diagnosed with breast cancer
- radiologist – a doctor who specialises in the use of x-rays, ultrasound and scans to diagnose and treat disease
- pathologist – a doctor who examines the tissue and cells removed during a biopsy or surgery
- medical oncologist – a doctor who specialises in cancer drugs
- clinical oncologist – a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with radiotherapy and/or cancer drugs
- chemotherapy nurse – trained to give chemotherapy drugs
- therapeutic radiographer – trained to give radiotherapy
- research nurse – who can discuss the option of taking part in clinical trials.
It’s recommended that all NHS breast cancer patients have their own breast care nurse if they want one. Many private hospitals also have breast cancer nurses.
Your nurse will try to answer any questions you have and will offer support during and after your hospital treatment. This role is sometimes called a ‘key worker’.
You may also have treatment or care from:
- an oncoplastic surgeon – a breast cancer surgeon with specific training in plastic surgery
- a plastic surgeon
- a physiotherapist
- a prosthesis (artificial breast form) fitter, sometimes called an appliance officer
- a pharmacist
- a fertility specialist
- a wig fitter or hair loss adviser.
A range of support services may also be available. This varies from area to area. You may be interested in finding out more about:
- complementary therapies
- local support groups
- a dietitian.
Your breast care nurse can tell you what’s available to you.
Your treatment plan
When your specialist team has information from your tests, they will discuss your treatment options with you and prepare a treatment plan.
Your treatment plan may change as more information about your breast cancer becomes available (such as the results of tests done on the breast tissue removed during an operation).
You can decide how much, or how little, involvement you want in decisions about your treatment. And you can change your mind about how much involvement you want at any stage of your treatment.
Whatever level of involvement you want, you don’t have to be rushed into treatment. You can spend a few days thinking about any treatment options you’ve been offered before you decide what to do. Taking a little time to think about your treatment is very unlikely to make a difference to the outcome. But you may feel more in control of what’s happening if you’ve had a chance to think things through.
You’ll probably have some questions and you should feel free to ask for as much information as you need. Your specialist team will be able to explain anything you don’t understand.
Questions might include:
- Why is this the best treatment for me?
- Are there any other options?
- When will treatment start?
- How long will my treatment take?
- What are the possible side effects?
- Are there any long-term implications for me?
- How will the treatment affect my everyday life?
- Will the treatment affect my fertility?
- Where will I need to go for treatment? Will I have to travel far?