When patients walk into the Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso Breast Care Center, they can trust they’ll receive some of the best care in the city.
That’s not an overstatement. The Breast Care Center at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) is one of just two accredited breast care centers in El Paso. That means the center undergoes rigorous review and performance evaluation to ensure it’s providing the highest level of breast care.
“Accreditation keeps us in check,” says center director Karinn Chambers, M.D. “But we don’t have to be accredited; it’s voluntary to undergo the process. We do it for the patients — to make sure they’re receiving the highest standard of care.”
Indeed, each and every breast cancer case is reviewed by not just one, but multiple physicians at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, which is a part of TTUHSC El Paso. Oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, and pathologists gather together twice a month to discuss and brainstorm every patient’s situation.
Having this team of experts collaborate under one roof is a big advantage to patients, Dr. Chambers says. “It ensures that all aspects of care are considered, and that we don’t miss any of the many components involved in breast cancer care.”
Breast cancer patients typically juggle multiple appointments, rushing to various specialists across the city—or state—for treatment. But because of TTUHSC El Paso’s multidisciplinary approach, the full-range of medical services necessary to treat breast cancer, from mammography to breast reconstruction, are available at one location.
In 2012, patients even began to have access to clinical trials through TTUHSC El Paso’s Cancer Clinical Research Core (CCRC). Established by Professor Zeina Nahleh, M.D. — with the support of a $1.5 million grant — the CCRC offers patients cutting-edge options to treat, diagnose, prevent or manage symptoms related to cancer and the side effects of treatment.
Patients have had the opportunity to participate in more than 25 clinical trials since the center opened. Each year, more than 90 patients opt to participate in trials, says Dr. Nahleh. “And that’s impressive,” she explains. “That number far exceeds the number of people who typically participate at other health care centers, meaning many of our patients are receiving pioneering treatment.”
But services don’t stop in the doctor’s office. The Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso Breast Care Center offers emotional support through a free survivorship support group. The group meets once a month for patients to connect and share their experiences.
“We’re not limiting this [group] to current patients; it’s open to everyone in El Paso who has, or has had, breast cancer,” explains Dr. Chambers, who started the survivorship meetings. “A patient who’s just finished treatment might find solace in the experience of a 15-year survivor, while a 15-year survivor could bring strength to current patients.”
During a session, patients also receive valuable cancer education, like how to keep fit during treatment and the short and long-term side effects of chemotherapy.
“One of the biggest sources of anxiety for our patients is fear of cancer recurrence,” Dr. Chambers says. “The group explores this difficult topic, and many others, to help patients find life after cancer.”
Dr. Chambers hasn’t always been the director of the Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso Breast Care Center. She moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to El Paso in late 2015 after her exceptional resume caught the eye of the TTUHSC El Paso Department of Surgery.
Dr. Chambers is one of only a handful of surgeons in the U.S. that’s studied breast surgical oncology. This niche specialty means a surgeon has training and experience in every aspect of breast care: pathology, imaging, biopsy, genetics, radiology, medical oncology, and breast surgery. Though the specialty took her six years to master, the assistant professor is proud to be able to help patients with her knowledge.
“I love the patients. They are such a strong group of woman,” she says. “It amazes me everyday, watching them go through the transitions—from diagnosis through surgery to chemotherapy, all the way to becoming a lifelong survivor.”
Edward Saltzstein, M.D., founded the Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso Breast Care Center in 1996. Dr. Saltzstein served as the director of the center until his retirement in January 2016. It was with great sadness that TTUHSC El Paso announced Dr. Saltzstein’s passing in March 2016; he will be greatly missed by students, staff, faculty and the residents he mentored.