2016 Top Doctor: Victor Zannis, M.D.

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Profiles Issue: April 2016
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Breast Cancer Surgery
Med School/Year Graduated: University of California, Los Angeles, 1976

Years in Practice: 34

photography by Steve Craft; Victor Zannis, M.D.What led you to specialize in breast cancer surgery? Do you have any personal connections?  
In 1999, breast care was a growing, dynamic discipline that needed more specialized study to do it well. So I decided to concentrate on it full-time. Since then, I now personally have also had very close relatives and friends experience breast cancer firsthand.

What’s your opinion about the federal government’s recommendation last year that women don’t need to start getting breast cancer screenings until they’re 50?  
Breast cancer specialists like me see 40-year-old women in our offices every week with new breast cancers found by screening mammograms. These cancers are usually less lethal when found early, so I, like many of us in this field, still encourage regular screening from 40 years of age.

What are your thoughts on “preventive mastectomies” like the ones Angelina Jolie had?
Preventive, or prophylactic, mastectomies are appropriate for women with confirmed BRCA gene mutations, like Angelina Jolie has. However, expert genetic counseling and necessary testing needs to be done before decisions like this are made.  

What is “ductal carcinoma in situ”/DCIS, and how common is that diagnosis?
DCIS is a form of precancer that can be a precursor to regular breast cancer. By itself, it is not life-threatening. About 50,000 cases of DCIS are diagnosed yearly in the United States, compared to 200,000 cases of regular breast cancer.

What is the most challenging aspect of breast conservation?
Many patients understandably, and courageously, believe that a radical surgery like a mastectomy is their only chance for cure. But studies now, over the past 30 years, have proven that, in three out of four cases of breast cancer, conserving the breast provides the identical cure as a mastectomy.

When a patient requires post-surgical reconstruction, what surgeon or surgeons do you typically recommend?
Fortunately, the Phoenix area has multiple expert plastic surgeons who help with this – who have both cosmetic and reconstruction training and experience.

You enjoy golfing and hiking. Where are your favorite places in the Valley to do both?
As a native of Phoenix, I grew up on the Papago and Encanto public courses. They’re still close to my heart, but there are a hundred golf courses now in the Phoenix area I love to play. And hiking Shaw Butte, North Mountain, Piestewa Peak, Camelback and South Mountain – there’s nothing better.