Dr. Katerina Tsiapali

Katerina Tsiapali, MD

To meet the needs of the community, University of Maryland Capital Region Health has launched a new breast health program in Prince George's County and Southern Maryland.

Led by Katerina Tsiapali, MD, a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and fellowship-trained breast surgeon, the program is designed to provide comprehensive care for all types of cancerous and non-cancerous breast conditions.

"Many patients who have had to go to D.C. or Anne Arundel County in the past for their care options are now able to find care closer to home," said Jay Mittal, vice president for business, strategy and development at UM Capital Region Health. "Cancer is such a complex condition. It requires the coordination of several medical specialties, including surgery, imaging, medical oncology, radiation oncology, pathology and women's health care providers like obstetricians and primary care physicians. We are wrapping our arms around all of that with this new access point for breast health in Prince George's County."

Multidisciplinary Approach

Like its sister programs in the UM Cancer Network, the new UM Capital Region Health breast program features a multidisciplinary approach to care.

A nurse navigator, nurse practitioner and social worker collaborate with Tsiapali on patient care and provide support throughout a patient's breast health journey.

The nurse navigator also helps coordinate additional appointments for patients, ensuring they know where to go and when, said Nick Hubler, vice president of ambulatory services at UM Capital Region Health.

"We offer a concierge-like feel and offer a range of services to help guide patients through the treatment process," he said.

"I'm protective of my patients and want to be involved in all aspects of their care," Tsiapali added. "Area physicians should feel peace of mind knowing we take care of the whole patient."

The breast program hosts a multidisciplinary breast tumor board twice a month to review details of patients' diagnoses and treatment plans. Specialists participating in the board include breast surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists. The board provides multiple opinions in one setting, translating to a more thoughtful, coordinated and robust treatment plan for patients.

Referring providers are kept abreast of a patient's diagnosis and status through office visit notes and personal communication (i.e. phone calls, secure messages, etc.) from the team. Referring providers are welcome to attend the virtual tumor board. (Contact Nyja Harrison for more information.)

Patients also have access to clinical trials and genetic counseling through the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Community Needs

Along with providing quality breast care for patients, Tsiapali said she is working to address the breast health disparities in Prince George's County.

According to the Prince George's County Health Department, 606 of the county's female residents were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. More than 73 percent of those diagnosed were Black women, who have the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any U.S. racial or ethnic group.

"There is definitely need for improvement in access to quality care, screening services and education so these women don't have to deal with advanced disease because of lack of access, late presentation and inadequate care," Tsiapali said. "We've already done some community events to let patients know we're here and to help educate them."

In the future, Tsiapali said she also plans to host symposiums for area physicians to discuss breast health disparities and how to improve care for vulnerable patient populations.

UM Capital Region Health's new breast health program is part of a broader effort to expand the health system's cancer services. A new, comprehensive cancer center is scheduled to open at UM Capital Regional Medical Center in 2023.

Do you have a patient in need of breast expertise? Dr. Tsiapali, Director of the UM Capital Region Comprehensive Breast Program, is accepting new patients in her Bowie office. Call 301-809-2013 to refer a patient or visit the UM Capital Region Health Cancer Care website for more information.