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Breast Cancer In Situ: Managing Your Medical Care: Diagnosis To Treatment Decision

Choose The Best Available Cancer Doctors (Oncologists)

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Breast cancer usually involves a team of doctors who specialize in the treatment of cancer. Cancer doctors are known as Oncologists (on -col-o-gists). 

The three primary types of oncologists are:

  • Surgical oncologists: specialists in the surgical removal of cancer tumors.
  • Medical oncologists: specialists in chemotherapy treatments.
  • Radiation oncologists: specialists in treating cancer with radiation.

Take time choosing the best cancer doctors available. Many people make the choice by the seat of their pants, often on the belief that a choice has to be made right away. In fact, there is generally time to gather facts and make a reasoned decision. 

The doctor who gave you your diagnosis can tell you how much time you have to make a decision. It is not unusual to have at least three or four weeks after diagnosis to get treatment started.

Generally people see the specialist recommended by their treating doctor. If you are looking for a specialist for a single consultation for a particular problem, your doctor's recommendation may be adequate.  However, in this instance, you are likely to see the doctor on an ongoing basis. Consider several different specialists before settling on the best one for you.

Survivorship A to Z has a document noted in "To Learn More" about how to choose an oncologist, including how to locate potential candidates. As you will see, one of the factors to consider is the hospital the doctor is affiliated with.

In addition to the standard questions, consider other aspects you may want in a doctor. For instance, some women still want an "omniscient" doctor to tell them what to do. Others prefer doctors who will discuss everything with them. And still others want a great deal of information but prefer to defer to the doctor for decision making. There is no right or wrong style. Do not feel guilty if your needs are not the same as those of your friend or neighbor. Remember, the key is what works best for you.

Interview several doctors until you find the one that is best suited to your individual needs.

If there are several doctors you like and you are having difficulty choosing among them, Survivorship A to Z provides an easy to use Evaluator. See  "To Learn More."


  • As a general matter, one of the oncologists usually takes the lead for the care of your breast cancer. 
    • If this doesn't happen naturally, choose one of the doctors to fill the role. 
    • If the doctor doesn't do a good job of coordinating your care, choose a different doctor to be the leader.
  • If you haven't already, this is a time to learn how to maximize your time with a doctor. Even if you are used to working with doctors, Survivorship A to Z information is likely to provide suggestions for making your limited time with a doctor more effective.
  • Look at the Survivorship A to Z article about how to get through waiting periods. In the current situation, the techniques can be used while waiting for appointments which permit you to make your decision as an informed consumer.

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