Login / Register


Password: [Lost?]

New User? Click here for your FREE subscription

Acute and Ambulatory Care Professionals
Acute and Ambulatory Care Professionals Acute and Ambulatory Care Professionals

Follow Us

NEWS-Line on Twitter NEWS-Line on Facebook NEWS-Line on Google+ NEWS-Line on LinkedIn NEWS-Line on Pinterest

Loading Events...

Life After Cancer: Breast Surgeon Who Overcame Breast Cancer Talks Thrivorship | NEWS-Line for Acute and Ambulatory Care Professionals

Life After Cancer: Breast Surgeon Who Overcame Breast Cancer Talks Thrivorship


After general surgeon and nursing mother, Dr. Lisa D. Curcio, discovered blood in her breast milk, she received the devastating diagnosis of breast cancer at just 38 years old. Her personal experience led her to become a leading breast surgeon at Nuvance Health with a special interest in survivorship and breast cancer prevention, particularly genetic testing.

The diagnosis

At 38-years old, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Lisa Curcio never expected a cancer diagnosis. She was recently married, a new mom to a son and had just completed a fellowship in surgical oncology when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dr. Curcio had a mammogram after she noticed blood in her breast milk.

“I knew the mammography technologists because I worked with them. I could tell by the look on their faces something was wrong after they saw my imaging results,” said Dr. Curcio.

Dr. Curcio then met with a team of radiologists and had a stereotactic biopsy.

She said it was “surreal” walking her own biopsy down to pathology. She said, “I knew my life was going to change.”

Dr. Curcio also had an incisional biopsy. The results revealed she had early-stage, high-grade ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). High-grade DCIS cancer cells are the most abnormal and grow the fastest. She also had Paget's disease of the breast, which is a rare form of breast cancer.

Q&A with Dr. Curcio

How did you feel when you were diagnosed with breast cancer?

I felt betrayed because I had dedicated years of education and training to becoming a cancer surgeon and suddenly I was the patient.

At first, I was in denial. I felt like I was having a bad dream and would wake up from it and be okay. Then, I felt angry because having cancer felt unfair.

How did having breast cancer affect your life?

Within one year, I had four surgeries including bilateral mastectomies and breast reconstruction. During that time, I continued my denial. I completed my military commitment. I took on more work in surgical oncology to prove I was the same surgeon before breast cancer. I had a demanding on-call schedule at the hospital and was rarely home.

At the time, I did not share my breast cancer experience with patients because I felt like telling them my story would give them a bias about treatment options.

Five years later, I realized I could offer my patients even more by sharing my experience because I could empathize in a unique way. I also finally accepted that I had cancer and living in silence was not how I wanted to live my post-cancer life.

I decided to specialize in breast surgery and open my own practice. Having my own practice allowed me flexibility so I could spend more time with my children. I fondly remember having lunch with them every Wednesday at their grade school, something I would not have been able to do if I continued general surgery.

What common concerns do cancer survivors experience?

Cancer recurrence or treatment side effects

Many people who complete cancer treatment are concerned it will return. Some people may also feel concerned about long-term side effects from treatment.

We have developed a post-active cancer treatment program for our patients to help them take control of their health and stay ahead of these concerns. We encourage our patients to stay in touch with their care team if they have questions and to follow appropriate post-treatment screenings.

Following a healthy lifestyle is another way to take control and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence, including:

Eating a healthy diet
Exercising regularly
Maintaining a healthy body weight
Avoiding moderate-to-heavy alcohol consumption
Not smoking tobacco
Reducing stress

Some people may worry about their family members’ risk for cancer, especially if they have children.

We offer our patients genetic counseling and testing to identify cancer risk and ways to reduce it. This also allows us to identify which children need to be monitored more closely. Teaching children how to be proactive with their health can take the fear out of their family history of cancer.

For example, my 18-year old daughter will start mammograms when she is in her twenties. I do not have a known genetic mutation that would increase my children’s risk for cancer, but she is at increased risk for breast cancer merely because I was diagnosed at a young age.

What tips do you have for cancer survivors?

Moving past the diagnosis

Some people may feel trapped by their diagnosis after overcoming cancer. Suddenly, life is not all about medical appointments and treatment. It may have been a focal point of conversations with family and friends and difficult to get beyond.

Channel the courage, hope and strength you used to overcome cancer into taking ownership of your future health. For example, commit to an exercise routine or hobby that takes your time and focus.


No one wants cancer. Yet, having it led me to find my passion in the care of fellow breast cancer patients. Having cancer also made me realize I needed to focus on what mattered most.

I share that with my patients because cancer — albeit emotionally and physically daunting — can change their life’s trajectory in a positive, meaningful way if they let it. That is how someone not only survives but also thrives after cancer.

For example, spend time doing things that bring you joy and cherish time with loved ones. Talk with your care team if you need help navigating life after cancer. Through our survivorship programs, we offer support groups and resources for our patients.

I had breast cancer 21-years ago and I know I am stronger today because of that experience. Cancer is a journey from diagnosis to recovery and beyond. No matter what stage you are in, remember how strong you are, value your priorities and take care of yourself.

Learn more about cancer care services at Nuvance Health.

About Nuvance Health

Nuvance Health is a family of award-winning nonprofit hospitals and healthcare professionals in the Hudson Valley and western Connecticut. Nuvance Health combines highly skilled physicians, advanced facilities and technology and compassionate caregivers dedicated to providing quality care across a variety of services including the Cancer Institute, Heart and Vascular Institute, Neuroscience Institute and orthopedics, primary care and surgery.

Nuvance Health has convenient hospitals and outpatient locations including Danbury Hospital, New Milford Hospital, Norwalk Hospital and Sharon Hospital in Connecticut; Northern Dutchess Hospital, Putnam Hospital and Vassar Brothers Medical Center in New York; and many primary and specialty care practices including The Heart Center — a leading provider of cardiology care — and three urgent care offices. Nuvance Health affiliates offer non-acute care including Home Care and the Thompson House for rehabilitation and skilled nursing services. Visit nuvancehealth.org for more information. TTY: 1-800-421-1220

Source & Photo: Nuvance Health

Pictured: Dr. Lisa Curcio with Patient, 3.3.21

Share This!

Loading Jobs...
(Dismiss) Thank you for visiting NEWS-Line! Please sign up, login, or follow us on your favorite social networks
to receive custom tailored eNews, job listings, and educational opportunities for your specific profession.