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A Healing Destination

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Phyllis Davis, a 33-year cancer survivor finds hope in the team-based approach at Texas Tech Physicians El Paso


Thirty-three years ago, Phyllis Davis went to a routine checkup and had her first mammogram. Two days later, she was facing one of the hardest decisions of her life: getting a mastectomy and chemotherapy to remove cancer in her breast or a lumpectomy and radiation. She chose the mastectomy.


“To say I was shocked to find out I had cancer was an understatement,” Davis said. “Physically, the surgery and chemo were unpleasant but not terribly traumatic. Emotionally, I was having trouble coping. I had two teenage sons I was determined to be there for and a husband I wanted to grow old with. I was terrified of dying despite reassurances from my doctors that I would be fine.”


Davis was fine until she wasn’t.


CPRIT CEO Wayne Roberts presents a $6 Million Cancer Research Grant to TTUHSC El Paso
The joy of family and friends: A cancer diagnosis hasn't changed Phyllis Davis' positive outlook on life.

In 2001, her arm started going numb, and in 2002, a biopsy of a lymph node showed cancer had returned.


Davis’ previous caregivers asked her to call if she started feeling sick. That didn’t sit right with her, so she sought treatment at the Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso Breast Care Center, where oncologist Sumit Gaur, M.D., biopsied her tumor and recommended a change in medication.


“I feel blessed to have found him because he searched for my best treatment and worked with my care team to provide it,” Davis said.


Cases like Davis’ are why TTP El Paso is known for world-class patient care. TTP El Paso is the region’s most extensive multispecialty medical group practice, with over 250 specialists who are also faculty at the Foster School of Medicine.


“I’m entering my 33rd year of breast cancer, and I’m fortunate that TTP El Paso is interested in all aspects of my case,” said Davis, who also worked with gastroenterologist Sherif Elhanafi, M.D., and neurologist Darine Kassar, M.D. “From the oncologist to the neurologist, all my doctors are exceptional. I have the care I need and wouldn’t want to trust anyone else with it.”


Across the Borderplex, that care is essential. According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer incidence has increased in El Paso County over the past decade, with a rate of 106 cases per 100,000 women. It’s the primary cause of cancer death among Hispanic women, and a substantial number of cases in Hispanic women are the more aggressive triple-negative breast cancers. El Paso County has a population of 840,000, of which 83% identify as Hispanic.


Patients with cancer often face additional complications beyond the cancer itself or due to treatments. Complications vary depending on the type of cancer, if it has spread and what treatment methods are in use, and often include pain, bone complications, gastrointestinal issues and neurological problems.

TTHUSC El Paso assists with preventive breast cancer care.

“Patients with cancer already suffer from cancer itself, including the side effects of treatment and the mental effect imposed by such diagnosis,” said Dr. Kassar. “Having access to multiple specialties at TTP El Paso allows patients to address different concerns in one convenient location. It also allows the providers to communicate with each other concerning the treatment plan for each patient.”


In addition to focusing on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the Breast Care Center provides emotional support for patients through the Breast Cancer Survivorship Clinic.


Like Davis, many survivors have ongoing physical and psychological needs following a cancer diagnosis, but breast cancer survivorship care is relatively new. Because of new treatments and early detection, there are more survivors than ever, with more than 4 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. today, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.


“Thanks to the incredible specialists and world-class facilities at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, I can live an upbeat life, limit negative thoughts and do everything I can with the days I have,” Davis said.

 
 

YOU CAN HELP


At TTUHSC El Paso, we are committed to growing our own health care heroes and changing the state of health care in our Borderplex. For more information about how you can help, please contact andrea.tawney@ttuhsc.edu or craig.holden@ttuhsc.edu or visit ttuhscep.edu/elpaso/ia/giving/.

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