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UAB Breast Cancer Clinic helps women make informed decisions

~The UAB Cancer Center's Breast Cancer Clinic at The Kirklin Clinic offers women unique opportunity to choose treatment options in consultation with three specialists on one visit.


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 institutions.
"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 staging procedure."
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.