Breast cancer is diagnosed and treated by a team of specialists. They take part in every aspect of your care including surgery, insurance approvals, ongoing treatment, follow-up imaging, and more.
Meet the Team
These cancer specialists evaluate all types of breast problems, such as masses, abnormal imaging, and biopsy results, to start a plan for your cancer treatment. Your surgical options may include lumpectomy, sentinel lymph node biopsy, axillary lymph node dissection, hidden scar surgery, oncoplastic techniques, or skin and nipple-sparing mastectomy. Together, you and your surgeon will design the plan for your cancer treatment and coordinate with medical and radiation oncologists. Surgical consultations and follow-up visits take place in the office. All surgeries take place at the hospital or ambulatory care center.
These cancer specialists assess your individual risk of recurrence and offer therapies that will optimally reduce this risk and provide the highest likelihood of cure. Chemotherapy, immunotherapies, and targeted treatments (including endocrine-based and HER2-directed therapies) are overseen by a medical oncologist.
Radiation oncologists use beams of energy (X-rays) to treat cancer. Radiation therapy may be used in combination with surgery and medical treatments to optimize control of your cancer. Treatments may be directed at the breast, chest wall, lymph nodes, or other areas of the body depending on your individual situation. Our radiation oncologists use specialized treatment planning and delivery systems in our outpatient radiation treatment clinics.
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons
If you desire and are eligible for breast reconstruction, our board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeons will help you understand your options and recommend the most appropriate procedure. Your surgical consultations and post-operative appointments take place in our office. All surgeries take place at the hospital or ambulatory care center.
Radiologist/Breast Imaging Specialists
You may meet with a radiologist if you have a diagnostic mammogram or ultrasound that requires a biopsy. Our board-certified breast imaging specialists are trained in the early detection of breast cancer and the identification of abnormal breast imaging.
Our active research efforts mean you may be eligible to participate in our breast cancer clinical trials, which provide access to new therapies and new ways to treat breast cancer before they are approved.
Oncology Nurse Navigators
You may work with a nurse navigator who can guide you through testing, treatment, surgery, and beyond. They help identify and overcome barriers to cancer treatment and coordinate appointments with your cancer care team. They educate you and your family and help you manage transportation, housing, and financial concerns. Nurse navigators are available at select Duke locations.
Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants
Highly trained nurse practitioners and physician assistants with expertise in breast cancer will participate in many aspects of your appointments. They work within their specialties -- surgical oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology – and may be involved in different aspects of your care.
Nurses, Certified Medical Assistants, and Pharmacists
A nurse or medical assistant may be involved in different aspects of your visits, such as taking your vitals when you first arrive and updating your medical history. A pharmacist may also be involved in teaching you about your chemotherapy treatments.
Certified Genetic Counselors
A genetic counselor can explain and recommend genetic testing to determine your cancer risk. If you have already been diagnosed with breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or colon cancer, knowing whether this cancer is inherited can direct your treatment decisions. It may also affect your loved ones’ health in the future.
Other Team Members
You may also interact with behavioral health therapists, physical and occupational therapists, medical family therapists, oncology dieticians, social workers, and other cancer-specific caregivers who support you during your cancer treatment. You may see a medical student, trainee, resident, or fellow pursuing specialty training. They work closely with other members of your health care team.
Where you receive your cancer care is important. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our cancer program is nationally ranked, and the highest ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2020–2021.