Together, National and Community Foundations Aid TTUHSC El Paso’s Fight Against Breast Cancer

Both faculty and students at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso play critical roles in the fight against breast cancer, from education and prevention, to diagnosis, to the discovery of new treatments. Students from the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine conduct screenings in the clinics where they volunteer, and faculty members carry out research to expand potential treatments.

In their efforts to raise breast cancer awareness and enable early detection, the American Breast Cancer Foundation (ABCF) and the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) have provided ongoing support of the Foster School of Medicine’s Medical Student Run Clinic (MSRC). The MSRC provides diagnostic, preventive and educational care to residents in the community of Sparks, Texas, just outside El Paso city limits.

In 2019, the NBCF awarded a $10,000 grant, and the ABCF a $7,500 grant, to the MSRC for a combined total of $17,500, which will provide screening and diagnostic mammograms and ultrasounds to the uninsured and underserved population in Sparks. Through these joint efforts, it is expected that 90 to 100 mammograms will be given, and approximately 20% of those screenings will lead to follow-up testing with ultrasound and/or a diagnostic mammogram.

The Texas Medical Association is one of several organizations that support TTUHSC El Paso's fight against breast cancer.

The Texas Medical Association is one of several organizations that support TTUHSC El Paso’s fight against breast cancer.

Both the ABCF and the NBCF strive to identify cases of breast cancer as early as possible so patients who test positive can be immediately referred for treatment. Additionally, funding from both foundations will be used to provide health education to residents on overall breast health, preventive care, important signs and symptoms to watch for and discuss with health care providers, and how to properly conduct a breast self-exam at home. Health-education discussions and materials are provided in English and Spanish.

Without funding from the ABCF and the NBCF, women in the Sparks community would have had little or no other means for screening, and diagnosed cases could have been missed until the disease progressed further.

Most recently, the Texas Medical Association Foundation awarded a $3,000 grant to the MSRC to increase breast cancer screening in the Agua Dulce colonia in East El Paso. Volunteer students and physician faculty at the MSRC will provide free breast exams through a mobile mammography unit.

About 50 women will receive bilingual breast health education and 20 will receive free mammograms at the mobile mammography unit operated by Desert Imaging. These breast exam services would normally cost about $260 per patient.

“It’s important to continue our outreach efforts in the underserved areas of West Texas and bring services to those in need in their own communities,” said Maureen Francis, M.D., FACP, assistant dean for medical education at the Foster School of Medicine and a medical director of the MSRC. “Support from partnerships like these are critical in providing potentially lifesaving care to women who would otherwise have little or no access to this type of preventive care.”

The Foster School of Medicine established the MSRC in 2013, and the clinic has served more than 2,000 patients since then.