What is the Role of a Certified Breast Care Nurse?
A Certified Breast Care Nurse is an RN who has obtained a certificate in breast care and works primarily with patients at any stage after being diagnosed with breast cancer. This nurse has specialized training and knowledge of breast health, diagnosis and staging of breast cancer, treatment modalities, symptom management, survivorship resources and, if applicable, end of life care.
A certified breast care nurse's role depends on the setting in which they work. Most commonly, this nurse will be found in a clinic setting; specifically, at an oncology clinic most likely alongside oncology nurses. Oncology clinics include treatment teams that specialize in the treatment of cancer. The breast care nurse is involved in the treatment of patients with breast cancer throughout its various stages.
- Diagnosis and Staging: The nurse assists with preparing patient for tests, laboratory work and providing education on the final results that lead to an appropriate diagnosis and staging of cancer.
- Treatment: The nurse assists in scheduling, educating and supporting patients throughout the course of cancer treatment. This may include medication management, chemo and/or radiation. The breast care nurse may be responsible for contacting the patient to check in on how well they are tolerating the treatment plan and collaborate with the oncologist to make any changes. The certified breast care nurse will follow the patient throughout the course of treatment, including monitoring if the patient is hospitalized and providing check-in phone calls.
- Symptom Management: Spanning from medication management for symptoms to alternative medicine therapies, the nurse will see the patient through and help them find a symptom management plan that works for them. The certified breast care nurse plays an integral role in communicating between patient, doctor and treatment team while assisting in finding a plan of care that works for the patient's symptoms.
- Survivorship: When a patient is considered in remission the breast care nurse provides education on symptoms to watch for as well as resources for continued support. The nurse may assist in arranging follow-up appointments as recommended.
- End of Life Care: If a patient does reach a point in their cancer journey where they decide to withdraw from treatment and focus on comfort care rather than curative care, the certified breast care nurse will collaborate with hospice to ensure the end of life for a patient is as comfortable as possible. The highlight is on symptom management to improve quality of life and comfort.
The role of a certified breast care nurse is a very integral part of the treatment team for patients that have breast cancer. Their knowledge and expertise assists and guides patients through the full course of treatment, and often beyond.