Being diagnosed with breast cancer is daunting enough without having to get your head around the various health professionals you will meet along the way.
On discovering a lump or any other cause for concern, your GP will probably be your first point of contact (although those over the age of 50 are also encouraged by to attend free routine NHS screening). Every case is different, but if after examining you your GP believes there is cause for concern, you will be referred to a breast clinic for diagnostic tests.
A breast cancer nurse or breast care nurse specialises in personal breast cancer care, and will be one of your main points of contact throughout your time at the breast clinic. In different units the breast care nurse may also be known as a nurse consultant or a key worker.
Oncology is the medical study, diagnosis and treatment of cancerous tumours. A clinical oncologist specialises in chemotherapy, radiotherapy and various hormonal treatments for cancer. Doctors specialising solely in radiotherapy are called radiotherapists.
Your consultant breast surgeon specialises in breast surgery and will most likely be your main doctor if you are diagnosed with breast cancer.
A cytologist specialises in assessing breast cells under a microscope to look for abnormalities.
A geneticist is a biologist who studies genetics (the science of genes, heredity, and variation of organisms). Women with a family history of breast cancer are at an elevated risk of developing it themselves, with one in five diagnosed cases revealing a significant genetic precursor. If you’re concerned about your family history, you should speak to your GP, who may choose to refer you to a genetics clinic for further investigation.
A gynaecologist is a doctor specialising in gynaecology, the branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the female reproductive organs.
A histopathologist specialises in assessing breast tissue under a microscope to look for abnormalities.
A pathologist specialises in analysing cells and tissues using a microscope, diagnosis and classification of disease. This specialism is sometimes split and referred to as a cytologist (for the study of cells) or a histopathologist (for the study of tissue).
A radiographer is the professional responsible for taking diagnostic X-rays of the body.
A consultant radiologist specialises in interpreting X-rays, mammograms and ultrasound imaging of the breast.
A radiotherapist is a doctor specialising in radiotherapy (high-energy radiation), which is commonly used to treat cancer.
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