Last year, an estimated 252,710 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with new
cases of invasive breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
Breast cancer is usually detected during a screening examination, before
symptoms develop, catching many women off guard. Within the blink of an
eye, they are confronted with many life-changing unknowns that require
immediate attention. What treatment is available? How will treatment affect
daily life? How do you choose a specialist?
One way to help manage the stress of uncertainty following a cancer diagnosis
is to find an oncologist or surgeon who can explain treatment recommendations
Kristen Massimino, MD, is a board-certified surgical oncologist who specializes in the treatment
of breast cancer as the regional director of breast surgery for
Providence Oregon. She believes that a cancer surgeon should not only be able to explain
a treatment, but also reassure and empower patients.
We asked Dr. Massimino about other important traits to look for in a cancer
surgeon, and what the first appointment might entail. Here’s what she said.
Q: When a patient learns she needs breast cancer surgery, what should she
look for in a surgeon?
A patient should look for a surgeon who specializes in the treatment of
breast cancer. A cancer surgeon is someone who’s done advanced training
in the treatment of cancer patients and some training in the treatment
of breast cancer specifically, or has a practice focused on caring for
patients with breast cancer.
In 2017, there were more than 5,000 studies published pertaining to breast
cancer. It can be really helpful to have a surgeon whose job it is to
keep ahead of the most up-to-date treatments for breast cancer, whether
it be medications or surgical treatments.
We’re lucky at Providence to also have a world-renowned cancer research
center, and this allows us to have the option to take advancements in
basic science and translate those into treatments for patients.
Q: When you meet with patients before surgery, what do you discuss?
A breast cancer surgeon is often the first physician that a patient sees.
Most women come in with a lot of fear and anxiety, as you can imagine,
so a lot of that initial visit is reassuring women that there are a lot
of great treatments for breast cancer, that most women do very well with
We talk about the big picture of breast cancer treatment that includes
therapies beyond surgery. We then talk in more detail about surgical options
for women. The good news is that most women have some choice in their
treatment. Though that can be overwhelming, we explain those choices and
together come to a decision for the right treatment.
Q: What do you hope the patient takes away after meeting with a cancer surgeon?
I hope that at the end of the first visit, patients feel reassured about
their treatment options. I hope that they feel they are empowered to make
decisions with respect to their care. We have a really wonderful group
of motivated, smart and caring people at Providence – all of whom
have the same goal, and that’s to help and support women from the
time they have a diagnosis through every phase of their treatment, Our
goal is to be there, to reassure women at diagnosis and to share their
joy when they finish their treatment.
Q: What words of encouragement would you offer to someone who learns she
has breast cancer?
I would reassure women that, though it’s scary to hear a diagnosis
of cancer, there are treatment options for women and men diagnosed with
breast cancer at every stage. So, in every stage of disease, we have treatment
options for you.
To learn more about breakthrough cancer treatments at Providence, and so
much more, visit
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.