Orthopaedic oncologists are a rare breed. Scattered throughout the most populous cities in the U.S., their expertise is hard to come by.
That’s why Lisa Kafchinski, M.D., is such an asset to Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso (TTP El Paso). Without the specialist, some cancer patients from El Paso County would have to commute at least 265 miles — to Albuquerque, New Mexico — to find the next closest orthopaedic oncologist.
Orthopaedic oncology is a highly specialized field that focuses on musculoskeletal cancer — cancer of the bones, muscles, blood vessels and surrounding soft tissues.
“I fell in love with this specialty because I can make a practical difference in someone’s life,” Dr. Kafchinski said. “I can bring someone relief if their tumor is benign, or I can help people through a difficult time in their life when they are diagnosed with cancer.”
Recruited by the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation in 2016, Dr. Kafchinski’s experience includes a competitive musculoskeletal oncology fellowship at the University of Toronto. There, she received intensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal tumors. These tumors may materialize as a simple mass in the bone or muscle, or result when another type of cancer, like those of the lung or breast, metastasizes — often to the bones nearby.
Amr Abdelgawad, M.D., chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, is glad to have the orthopaedic oncologist on the team.
“Dr. Kafchinski has been a great asset to our community,” Dr. Abdelgawad said. “She has performed many highly complex surgeries for patients who have cancer of their upper or lower extremities. Without her, these patients would have to travel to other cities to get their medical care.”
Dr. Kafchinski still remembers her first patient at TTP El Paso, a man in his mid-40s who had a soft tissue sarcoma in his leg. She diagnosed the patient, served as the primary surgeon for tumor removal and reconstruction, and now continues to care for him during recovery.
“It was such an honor when he put his trust in me,” Dr. Kafchinski said. “And now it’s even more exciting to see him go through remission.”
But the doctor’s most memorable patient yet was a young girl from Las Cruces, New Mexico.
The 11-year-old had a bone tumor in her leg. It was benign, fortunately, but was still causing significant pain in the girl’s day-to-day life. Dr. Kafchinski intervened and removed the mass; the procedure was a success.
After recovering — and without the prompting of her mother — the little girl wrote a thank you letter to the orthopaedist.
“She wanted to thank me for listening to her and believing that she was in a lot of pain,” Dr. Kafchinski said fondly. “She’s now pain-free and more active; that was a really memorable moment in my career here so far.”
Dr. Kafchinski holds a B.S in Nursing from Georgetown University and an M.D. from the University of Nevada. She completed a residency in orthopaedic surgery at the University of Utah. She joined Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso in September 2016 as an assistant professor.