Stephanie Fine, MD, is happy to be back home. Her education, career and breast surgery fellowship training have taken her to five different states. The Tesuque native returned to New Mexico and joined the University of New Mexico Cancer Center this summer.
Dr. Fine works closely with the other breast fellowship-trained surgeon in the state, Anna Voltura, MD, who is also at UNM Cancer Center and also a New Mexico native. “It was evident that I wouldn’t really attain the goals as a breast surgeon that I had set for myself until I was fellowship trained,” Dr. Fine explains. She and Dr. Voltura are part of the UNM Cancer Center’s Breast Cancer and Cancer Surgery teams.
Dr. Fine relishes her new academic environment. It gives her the chance to take part in the clinical research at the UNM Cancer Center. “We have the mentors and support systems to assist us at UNM,” Dr. Fine says. “You need access to data, you need statisticians. It’s a very involved process to produce a paper.”
The academic environment at UNM Cancer Center also gives Dr. Fine the chance to teach. “The teaching is frequently one-on-one,” she says. “It’s in the operating room. It’s in the clinic.” Teaching requires Dr. Fine to stay abreast of all the changes in the field, something she’s excited to do. She recently returned from a trip to Scotland in which she attended a week-long training with Michael Dixon, MD, FRCS, an international expert in breast cancer surgery. “Breast cancer treatment is changing so rapidly,” Dr. Fine says. “There are a lot of trials that come out. If you blink you might miss something.”
Women with breast cancer today have a far wider choice of treatments than they had even five years ago. In nipple-sparing and skin-sparing mastectomies, the surgeon preserves the skin of the breast, allowing for reconstruction in the same surgery. New devices, like the implantable localizing device to locate tumors too small to be seen or felt make surgery more comfortable and easier.
The team approach that the UNM Cancer Center uses enables doctors with many different specialties to devise a plan of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery for each person based on their unique situation. Chemotherapy can target some cancers and can reduce the size of a tumor before surgery. Genetic testing is more widely available and more precise. And radiation choices now include partial breast radiation, in which a catheter inserted into the lumpectomy site delivers radiation only to the tissue around the removed tumor within a shorter time frame than traditional radiation.
But Dr. Fine most excited to care for her patients at UNM Cancer Center and at Sandoval Regional Medical Center. “It’s difficult and inspiring, maybe at the same time, to watch the diagnosis settle into a patient when she first hears it,” Dr. Fine says. It’s the hardest part of her role. “But we help them get through it,” she says. “We get them the information and support and get them going on a treatment plan.”
Dr. Fine is part of a large team of breast cancer specialists at the UNM Cancer Center. The team includes medical oncologists (chemotherapy doctors), radiation oncologists, pathologists, surgeons and nurses. “Breast cancer treatment is a team approach,” says Dr. Fine. “We’re always asking the questions in a team format. The patient gets the benefit of everybody’s expertise.”
About Stephanie Fine, MD
Stephanie Fine, MD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology, at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She received her medical degree at the UNM School of Medicine and completed her residency and internship at the University of Utah Medical Center. She completed a fellowship in breast surgery at the Akron General Medical Center in Akron, Ohio. Dr. Fine has practiced at community hospitals in Ohio, Utah and New Mexico. She has given numerous presentations on breast cancer.
About the UNM Cancer Center
The UNM Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in the state. One of just 68 premier NCI-Designated Cancer Centers nationwide, the UNM Cancer Center is recognized for its scientific excellence; contributions to cancer research; delivery of high quality, state of the art cancer diagnosis and treatment to all New Mexicans; and its community outreach programs statewide. Annual federal and private funding of more than $72 million supports the UNM Cancer Center’s research programs. The UNM Cancer Center treats more than 60 percent of the adults and virtually all of the children in New Mexico affected by cancer, from every county in the state. It is home to New Mexico’s largest team of board-certified oncology physicians and research scientists, representing every cancer specialty and hailing from prestigious institutions such as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University, and the Mayo Clinic. Through its partnership with Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, the UNM Cancer Center brings world-class cancer care to the southern part of the state; its collaborative clinical programs in Santa Fe and Farmington serve northern New Mexico and it is developing new collaborative programs in Alamogordo and in Roswell/Carlsbad. The UNM Cancer Center also supports several community outreach programs to make cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment available to every New Mexican. Learn more at www.cancer.unm.edu.