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Breast Medical Oncology Services

Medical oncology is the branch of medicine that treats cancer with drugs that affect the whole body (also called “systemic” therapies because they affect the entire body system). These include chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

Systemic therapies are used for two different purposes in breast cancer: to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading (adjuvant therapy) or to prolong survival when cancer has already spread elsewhere in the body (metastasized).

Patients are typically referred to a medical oncology specialists by surgeons after surgery for breast cancer. Sometimes the patient may be referred before surgery for an opinion regarding drug treatment. The medical oncologist, a doctor who treats cancer with drugs, works closely with the other cancer experts (pathology, radiology, surgery, radiation, oncology) to review all important information to determine the best plan for each patient. This team meets regularly for multidisciplinary care planning.

During a medical oncology clinic visit, the medical oncologist reviews important medical information such as personal and medical history, family history, pathology reports and results concerning the stage of the patient’s cancer (total body bone scan, CT of abdomen, pelvis and chest) and the hormone-receptor type.

The medical oncologist will discuss the role of systemic treatment, the possible side effects and how to manage these side effects and the risks involved. The doctor may also discuss research studies for which the patient is eligible (called clinical trials).

What to expect

Once the treatment plan is agreed upon, the patient will be given a routine schedule and follow-up appointments. Chemotherapy is given at Mount Sinai by our care team in the Ruth Burnett Centre for Outpatient Oncology.

The oncology pharmacist will review with the patient the name of the drug(s), the expected side effects and management of the side effects. Written information will also be given out. The medications will be reviewed in the clinic with the oncology nurse. At this time, the patient will receive detailed explanations about the names of the drugs, treatment scheduling, blood tests, an assessment of psychosocial needs or concerns and referrals to other experts on the team as needed.

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