Hispanic Heritage Month

Northwestern Medicine doctor opens Latina breast cancer clinic

NBC Universal, Inc.

On the sprawling campus of Northwestern Medicine on the fourth floor of Prentice Women's Hospital, a brand new Hispanic breast cancer clinic has opened, thanks to Dr. Claudia Tellez.

The Northwestern Medical Oncologist and medical director of Hispanic Breast Cancer Clinic calls this her labor of love. It blossomed after 25 years of being a doctor and advocate, but not seeing many Hispanic patients receiving top treatment.

"Hispanics represent about one-third of the population in the city of Chicago, but we see less than 10% of Hispanics here at the clinic, so there’s a big opportunity.

Dr. Tellez explains that breast cancer is the most common and deadly cancer for Hispanic women, with a large number of women impacted with cancer not coming to major medical centers.

"Latina women are actually being diagnosed at at younger ages with more advanced breast cancer, that’s because many are not presenting for screening. So they’re presenting with more advanced cancers and they’re presenting with more subtypes of cancer that are more aggressive," Tellez said.

Esther Sciammarella is a patient, cancer survivor and advocate.

"The belief system; it doesn’t go through machines. So we need people that speak the language. Help with what they know. Because the health care system here is really complicated," Sciammarella said.

From the moment they walk into the clinic, they're met with bilingual signs, which Tellez says is vital to helping educate patients about their condition.

It also connects patients with important clinical trials, because "less than 7% of Hispanic patients are participating in clinical trials and it should be equivalent to population." Dr. Tellez explains that therefore, a third of patients should be participating.

Just weeks in to the endeavor, Tellez has four offices, a nurse and social worker to help her in her life-saving mission. 

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