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After a breast cancer diagnosis, NorthShore patients meet an experienced, collaborative team of specialists to help them start their journey to survivorship. On the team at the Center for Breast Health within NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center is Katherine Kopkash, MD, Oncoplastic Surgeon at NorthShore. Meet Dr. Kopkash and learn more about her and her job as she answers the questions below:
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in medicine?
I have wanted to be a doctor as long as I can remember. I was searching for a career that was challenging, exciting and rewarding, which perfectly sums up medicine, and I have never been disappointed with my decision.
How did your path lead you to surgical oncology?
I started medical school knowing I was interested in surgery. When I began my surgical residency, I was considering cardiac or vascular surgery. However, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do research with one of my mentors in breast surgical oncology and was really inspired. I loved the decisions that patients had in regards to their cancer care, which is relatively unique to breast cancer. I was excited by the research going on in the field of breast cancer and I was impressed by the way surgical oncologists quickly incorporated new data and research into their everyday practice.
What is your biggest inspiration in continuing to do research and advancements in your field?
My goal as a breast cancer surgeon is to cure cancer in the most beautiful way possible. This philosophy guides my research and my clinical practice. My research interests are based around surgical innovation regarding breast cancer treatment and quality of life for breast cancer survivors. Breast cancer, when caught early, is a very curable disease. Therefore, we have to strive to treat it in a way that gives women an excellent quality of life, because we know they will live a big beautiful life after their breast cancer is cured.
What does oncoplasty mean and how does it relate to breast care? How does it link with plastic surgery?
Breast oncoplastic surgery is a term used to describe treating breast cancer with techniques that focus on an excellent cosmetic outcome. In the olden days, surgeons believed it was enough to simply remove the cancer. Modern breast cancer surgery, and specifically oncoplastic breast surgery, focuses on adequately treating cancer while maintaining a natural breast shape and appearance. I work very closely with my plastic surgery colleagues, often employing a “team” approach for my larger or more complex cases, and we always utilize a dual surgeon approach when doing a mastectomy with reconstruction.
What does the NorthShore breast surgical team offer? What is unique about their approach?
We offer access to experts in the field, multidisciplinary care, access to clinical trials, cutting-edge surgical and radiation techniques, and the most up to date breast imaging modalities. We have nationally recognized programs in genetics, survivorship and lymphedema as well. These great programs and resources allow us to offer each patient personalized and compassionate care that is focused on individualized needs.
Who makes up the team and what impact does their work make?
The breast team is made up of specialists and fellowship trained physicians in breast surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, pathology, genetics, survivorship, lymphedema and research staff. All of us work together to offer the highest-quality and personalized clinical care to each of our patients.
Besides medicine, what is your passion and how does it inspire you?
I seek joy! I usually find that in my family; I am blessed with an incredible husband and two little boys. I also love spending time with friends and one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday afternoon is to have our friends and their children over for dinner and to play games in our backyard. I am currently re-learning the piano, which is fun but humbling, and learning how to play tennis. I travel whenever possible and am very excited for an upcoming work trip to Berlin.