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). They will meet regularly to discuss your care at the multidisciplinary team meeting (MDM).
The team may include:
- breast care nurse – a nurse who provides information and support to people diagnosed with breast cancer
- chemotherapy nurse – trained to give chemotherapy drugs
- clinical oncologist – a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with radiotherapy alone or radiotherapy and cancer drugs
- medical oncologist – a doctor who specialises in cancer drugs
- pathologist – a doctor who examines the tissue and cells removed during a biopsy or surgery
- radiologist – a doctor who specialises in the use of x-rays, ultrasound and scans to diagnose and treat disease
- research nurse – who can discuss the option of taking part in clinical trials
- therapeutic radiographer – trained to give radiotherapy
National guidance recommends that all NHS breast cancer patients have their own breast care nurse if they want one. Most private hospitals also have breast care 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:
- a fertility specialist
- a geneticist – a doctor who specialises in genetics
- an oncoplastic surgeon – a breast cancer surgeon with training in plastic surgery
- a pharmacist
- a physiotherapist
- a plastic surgeon
- a prosthesis (artificial breast form) fitter – sometimes called an appliance officer
- a psychologist
- 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
- dietary advice
Your breast care nurse can tell you what’s available in your area.
When your treatment team has all the information from the 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. 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 you want 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 treatment team will be able to explain anything you don’t understand.
Some possible questions are listed below.
- 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?