Breast Surgeon Known for Devotion to Patients Describes Her Strategy to Improve Their Lives

Image courtesy of AMITA Health

Dr. Rabia Z. Bhatti with the AMITA Resurrection Medical Center has always had a strong interest in the art of surgery. “I actually love the way that patients recover,” she explained. “There’s a gratification behind treating patients and watching them get better. And after practicing general surgery for 15 years, I realized I could provide even better care to my patients by focusing, and staying ahead, on one specialty. That’s when I made the switch to breast surgery.”

Dr. Bhatti specializes in everything from genetic counseling for determining risk to oncoplastic surgery for improving cosmetic outcomes, as part of a comprehensive approach that protects both the physical and emotional health of the patient. But one of the most unique aspects of the care she provides is the time she spends with each individual in the exam room. “One of the reasons that I felt like I was meant to do breast surgery was because I wanted to devote this time to my patients,” she shared, “I will just come in the room and sometimes I won’t even talk for a minute or two because I think that helps them to calm down and just be present for a moment. I tell them, ‘I’m here. You can just take a deep breath and then we can start talking. At that moment, most patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious, and spending that extra time just helps them to focus on their internal emotional state.”

“Then we go through their history,” she continued. “We discuss the pathology, the stage of their cancer and their treatment options. I have a handout that we work on together so we can agree on a plan of action.” One of the treatments Dr. Bhatti will often discuss with her patients is a tool known as MarginProbe.

MarginProbe reduces the need for extra surgeries

Dr. Bhatti started using MarginProbe 3-4 years ago when she was not satisfied with the cosmetic results she was seeing with her patients. “I wanted to do what was best for my patient cosmetically, as well as for their health,” the surgeon stated. “When I had to go back and perform a re-excision (additional surgery) due to the fact that not all cancer was removed during the first operation, I found that it disturbed any oncoplastic work and resulted in a very poor cosmetic result. My main goal was to reduce the total number of re-excisions that I needed to perform, and MarginProbe helps me to do just that.”

Over the course of approximately 75 patients, Dr. Bhatti has seen her re-excision rate fall dramatically from 20 percent, which is the current national average, to around 11 percent. Each re-excision that is avoided works to protect any cosmetic work that was performed during the initial surgery, or sometimes it’s the type of surgery that MarginProbe can enable which makes a real difference. “I had one patient with two tumors who was told she needed a full mastectomy,” the surgeon stated. “But MarginProbe enabled me to have the confidence to remove the cancer through a single excision and protect her health while preventing a mastectomy.”

Dr. Bhatti also feels that the emotional impact of avoiding a second surgery should not be underestimated. “Patients simply don’t want to have to go through this experience twice,” she said. “They have a life they want to get back to, and with MarginProbe I can often tell them with about 90 percent assurance that we can get all of the tumor during the first surgery. This is very gratifying for patients, and it typically puts them in a very good frame of mind going into the operating room, which is priceless.”

Continuously searching for ways to improve patients’ lives 

Dr. Bhatti is continuing in her pursuit of new advances that can positively impact patients’ lives beyond the removal of the cancer itself. She is looking at new methods to map a patient’s lymphatic system to reduce instances of lymphedema, where the removal of lymph nodes can cause swelling and disfigurement in a patient’s extremities. “We have to remember not only how fortunate we are that less people are dying from breast cancer, but that a majority of patients are surviving the disease, which means having to live with the aftereffects in some cases. Many of these are young people who still want to live a long, active and normal life. We need to stay focused on dealing with the comorbidities that can happen post-surgery. And that’s why these new treatment options, from gene mapping, to mapping the lymphatic system, to MarginProbe, are giving me so much hope for the future.”

Rabia Z. Bhatti, MD

Education: Residency Metropolitan Group Hospitals Residency in General Surgery, University of Illinois Chicago
Aga Khan University Medical College, Pakistan

Certifications: Board Certified in General Surgery
American Society of Breast Surgeons Breast Ultrasound Certification
Member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons 

Affiliations: AMITA Health Resurrection Medical Center Chicago, AMITA Health Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center Chicago

Medical Interests: Expertise in Nipple Sparing Mastectomy, Skin Sparing Mastectomy, Breast Biopsy, Breast Cancer, Benign Breast Disease, Genetic Counseling, Hidden Scar Surgery, In-Office Surgical Procedures, On-Site Ultrasound, Oncoplastic Breast Surgery, Partial Breast Radiation Device Placement, Sentinel Node Biopsy, Ultrasound Guided Breast Biopsy 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Dilon.