Habib Rahbar, MD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
I love the colleagues I get to work with at SCCA. Everyone is invested in providing the best possible care.”
What do you enjoy about working in breast cancer radiology?
I was initially drawn to radiology as a field because I liked figuring out the puzzle — using technology to peer inside the body and see what was causing a person’s symptoms — and then sharing that information with them. But a lot of specialties within radiology have very limited face time with patients. Breast imaging is an exception; there’s much more opportunity for direct contact with the people I care for. Many of my interactions are short and joyful: women breathing a huge sigh of relief because I’ve told them that their scans are clear and everything looks great. In the scenarios where I do end up diagnosing cancer, I collaborate with talented breast surgeons, oncologists, radiation oncologists and other staff to create a comprehensive plan for managing the disease. I love the colleagues I get to work with at SCCA. Everyone is invested in providing the best possible care.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
I am a board-certified radiologist who uses medical imaging to screen for, diagnose and manage breast cancer. I also serve as the clinical director of breast imaging at SCCA. In this role, I ensure that our clinical practices are steeped in evidence and that we are providing patient-centered care.
My research is focused on improving the management of ductal carcinoma in situ. Known as DCIS, this early-stage breast cancer begins in the milk ducts and has not spread to the surrounding breast tissue. It is difficult to predict which women with DCIS will go on to develop invasive breast cancer. As a result, sometimes patients can be overtreated. I use advanced imaging (MRI) to identify which forms of DCIS may merit less treatment —for example, surgery rather than both surgery and radiation. My goal is to offer more precise care for patients by better matching treatments to biology through imaging.
What personal experiences have informed your approach to care?
When my dad was diagnosed with bile duct cancer, I learned a lot in terms of how to talk to patients and families, how to read the room and how to make sure that each piece of information I’m providing is clear. Even if you’re knowledgeable about your condition and what could happen, it’s hard to hear what a physician is saying to you because there are all these things going on in the back of your mind that prevent you from focusing and thinking clearly. When I sit down with patients now, I slow down, and I don’t leave the room until I know that everyone understands what I’ve shared.