UAB Breast Health Center
The UAB Breast Health Center, an outpatient facility located
in The Kirklin Clinic®, offers an interdisciplinary team approach
in diagnosing and providing state-of-the-art treatment options
for breast cancer patients. The Center also provides access to
numerous clinical trials involving diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
care for breast cancer patients.
"In addition to our previous staff, we have added new faculty
members that are focusing on breast cancer," says Carla Falkson,
M.D., who is co-medical director of the Breast Health Center along
with Kirby Bland, M.D., chairman of the Department of Surgery.
"We'll be able to see more patients and are in the process
of adding more clinical trials, which provide our patients with
treatment options unavailable elsewhere," Dr. Falkson says.
The Breast Health Center participates in many investigator-initiated
studies, some of which are funded by the Cancer Center's $13.8-million
Breast SPORE grant, of which Dr. Bland is principal investigator.
Other trials are conducted in cooperation with national and international
collaborative groups. One of these is the Eastern Cooperative
Oncology Group (ECOG), a national clinical trial network. ECOG
membership gives institutions access to more trials and the opportunity
to contribute to collective results from a large body of member
"In these cooperative groups the idea is to partner efforts
so one can get results by working in synergy rather than each
group doing its own thing. A main member has the ability not just
to put patients on studies but also to make a significant contribution
to scientific knowledge," Dr. Falkson says.
Many of these new trials offer novel approaches to adjuvant chemotherapy
for patients with early-stage breast cancer. These trials often
draw upon proven chemotherapy combinations developed to treat
metastatic breast cancer and now used as frontline therapies for
early-stage breast cancer. The objective is to increase cure rates
of adjuvant trials.
A Team Approach
A component of the Breast Health Center is the Interdisciplinary
Breast Cancer Clinic, a place where newly-diagnosed breast cancer
patients and their families can meet with a team of cancer specialists.
This team, comprised of a medial oncologist, radiation oncologist,
and surgical oncologist, discusses the advantages, time commitments,
side effects, and outcomes of her individualized treatment. This
type of interdisciplinary input eliminates additional appointments
for second and third opinions.
The Breast Health Center offers patients support services, which
include turnaround mammography and pathology appraisals, as well
as assistance provided by counselors and nutritionists.
New horizons for the Breast Health Center
The Cancer Center is expanding services, exploring new procedures
and improving technology to help improve patient outcomes. New
faculty recruits, including Andres Forero, M.D., a medical oncologist,
and Helen Krontiras, M.D., surgeon, bring their experience to
the Breast Center.
The UAB Breast Health Center provides a new surgical technique
called sentinal node biopsy, Dr. Falkson explains, "Not many
people are doing sentinal node procedures yet. This procedure
removes a few critical lymph nodes, rather than a radical node
resection. Such procedures have significant side effects, while
sentinal node biopsies do not. However, the surgeon doing this
must have special expertise if this procedure is to be a reliable
The Breast Health Center recently added an MRI (magnetic resonance
imaging) machine dedicated exclusively for breast scans. This
is the only such instrument in our region and produces superior
results of breast diagnoses as compared to standard MRI machines.
It will be used in addition to high quality mammography and ultrasound
procedures to better diagnose early breast cancer.
Dr. Falkson is leading the expansion of a computer database to
collect information about patients seen at the Center. An expanded
database will provide more information for trend analysis to measure
patient outcomes. Currently, surgery patients at the Cancer Center
complete confidential surveys of relevant information about the
characteristics of their disease and their demographics. Data
collection will be expanded for patients seen through the Division
of Hematology/Oncology who may have had their surgery elsewhere.