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Breast surgeon Belinda Chan talks about her work2 May 2017

Breast surgeon Belinda Chan talks about her work

Belinda is a consultant breast surgeon who works in the Lifehouse Breast Surgery Unit with Dr Cindy Mak and Associate Professor Sanjay Warrier. She grew up on the North Shore with her older sister and her parents who immigrated from Hong Kong as teenagers for schooling. She completed all three of her degrees (Medical Science, Medicine and a Masters of Surgery) at the University of Sydney.

When Belinda was 10, her uncle struggled with cancer and eventually lost his battle with it. She was very close to him. It was at that point that she knew that she wanted to help patients with cancer. She specialised in gynae-oncology during her studies and with that came the realisation that she enjoyed relating to female patients.

On becoming a surgeon, Belinda says: “I trained as a classical pianist so I had dexterity on my side. It was satisfying to remove cancer from these people and this eventually led me to surgery and ultimately to breast surgery.”

Belinda had a long association with Dr Mak and Associate Professor Warrier through the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. She started at the breast unit when it was based there and is proud of the progress she’s witnessed since it relocated to Lifehouse.

When asked about what it’s like to work at Lifehouse, Belinda has this to say: “It’s been fantastic to work in such a collaborative team with my fellow surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, nurses and trainees! We often run clinics concurrently, and we all share the same attitude of putting our patients first. Treating patients together enables us to share skills and techniques to benefit our patients. Because Lifehouse is such an integrated cancer centre, I feel we truly provide holistic care to patients.”

“Being able to diagnose, treat, manage and monitor our patients under one roof, while also providing all the other supports that are sometimes overlooked in medicine, like massage, acupuncture, counselling and dietary advice, is a great privilege,” she says.

Belinda says the most enjoyable part of her job is being able to deliver good news: “Telling patients that their cancer is gone, that it’s all removed, and seeing the joy and relief and crying tears of happiness with them is so wonderful.”

We asked Belinda about her patients and her response was: “I think all my patients have an impact on me one way or another. The particularly memorable ones are probably those who are just like me, where we are of a similar age, have similar backgrounds and have children the same age. It reminds me that breast cancer can happen to anyone including me and vigilant breastscreening is so important because the disease doesn’t differentiate!”

When the day is done, Belinda gets 30 minutes to unwind in the car on the drive home listening to ‘soppy music’ and then she gets to enjoy chaotic fun with her “two little munchkins until they crash for the night.”