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Treatment Specialists for Advanced Breast Cancer

People with advanced breast cancer may have several doctors and other healthcare professionals on their health care team to help manage their disease and its effects on quality of life.

Healthcare professionals may be generalists or specialists. Generalists are those who consider the patient as a whole, while specialists are focused on one particular system or area. Depending on the patients’ needs, both generalists and specialists can play an important role.

Breast surgeon

A breast surgeon is a doctor who specializes in surgical procedures of the breast, including biopsy, lumpectomy, and mastectomy. Breast surgeons receive specific training and continuing education in breast care.1

Plastic/reconstructive surgeon

A plastic or reconstructive surgeon performs surgical procedures such as breast reconstruction after a mastectomy.2

Medical oncologist

A medical oncologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer using chemotherapy or other medications, such as targeted therapies. The medical oncologist oversees a patient’s care from diagnosis through treatment and helps manage any symptoms or treatment side effects.3

Radiation oncologist

A radiation oncologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating cancer using radiation therapy. Radiation therapy involves high-energy radiation targeted at cancerous tumors to decrease tumor size and kill cancer cells. The radiation oncologist determines the exact area to be treated using imaging techniques, as well as the total radiation dose that will be delivered and the safest angles for delivering the radiation.3

Oncology nurse

An oncology nurse is a registered nurse with special training in cancer treatment. Oncology nurses administer chemotherapy, monitor side effects, and provide education about treatment to patients and their family members.4

Palliative care doctor

While other doctors focus on treating cancer, palliative care specialists are focused on the overall well-being of the patient. Palliative care doctors work along with other doctors to manage or prevent side effects and help manage the symptoms of cancer, like pain.4

Registered dietitian

A registered dietitian is a credentialed health professional who is an expert in diet and nutrition. People with advanced breast cancer may consult with a dietitian to help them create a diet plan that includes proper nutrition and helps them maintain a healthy weight.4

Rehabilitation or physical therapist

Women who have had a mastectomy may work with a physical or rehabilitation therapist to regain their range of motion and strength.4

Oncology social worker

An oncology social worker is a licensed health professional that works with individuals or families to help restore their capacity for social functioning. Advanced breast cancer greatly impacts a person’s quality of life. Oncology social workers specialize in helping cancer patients with a comprehensive and collaborative approach to care.4,5

Mental Health Counselor/Therapist

Receiving a diagnosis of and living with advanced breast cancer can have a profound psychological impact. Many patients with advanced breast cancer may benefit from seeing a mental health counselor or therapist. Counselors and therapists can provide coping skills to help cancer patients deal with the psychosocial and emotional aspects of living with a serious, life-threatening disease.6

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: December 2018.
  1. The American Society of Breast Surgeons Statement on "What is a Breast Surgeon?" The American Society of Breast Surgeons. Available at https://www.breastsurgeons.org/about/statements/WhatIsABreastSurgeon.php. Accessed 7/24/18.
  2. Breast reconstruction. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Available at https://www.plasticsurgery.org/reconstructive-procedures/breast-reconstruction. Accessed 7/24/18.
  3. Types of oncologists. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Available at http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/cancer-basics/cancer-care-team/types-oncologists. Accessed 7/24/18.
  4. The oncology team. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Available at https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/cancer-basics/cancer-care-team/oncology-team. Accessed 7/24/18.
  5. About social workers. National Association of Social Workers. Available at https://www.socialworkers.org/News/Facts/Social-Workers. Accessed 7/24/18.
  6. Mosher CE, Johnson C, Dickler M, Norton L, Massie MJ, DuHamel K. Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer: A Qualitative Analysis of Physical, Psychological, and Social Sequelae. The breast journal. 2013;19(3):285-292. doi:10.1111/tbj.12107.