U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R 7

calm and soothing area for patients. The new

services include massage therapy, delivered by

therapists with special expertise in oncology

training, and nutrition services. The clinic also

offers psychology services for patients who

“don’t need a psychiatrist—just someone to

talk with to work through the issues they’re

facing during a difficult time,” Dr. Kvale says.

“Our program covers the whole spectrum

of the cancer journey,” she says. “That hasn’t

been available to cancer patients at UAB in the

past, but now it’s available to them from diag-

nosis into survivorship.”

A PART OF CANCER CARE The Supportive Care and Survivorship

Clinic is not exclusively for cancer patients,

although Dr. Kvale estimates that about 80

percent of the current patient volume is cancer-

related. The clinic is open to all patients,

including those with limited means. “That

wouldn’t be possible without the support of the

Cancer Center and its Advisory Board,” she

says. Ideally, cancer patients will become aware

of the clinic upon entering the UAB system and

will be able to refer themselves at any time.

Dr. Kvale and her team also are imple-

menting screening procedures to find people

who don’t recognize that they need help. “At

some point during their treatment, about 30

percent of cancer patients hit a level of distress

that would benefit from supportive care,” Dr.

Kvale says. “Right now, we only see about 3

percent of cancer patients, so we need to grow

our service by 1,000 percent. We’re looking at

the sorts of things that impact a person’s abil-

ity to get through treatment,” from emotional

distress to musculoskeletal discomfort to body

mass changes, she says. “I hope our clinic will

become a vibrant part of what makes cancer

care at UAB so special.”

B Y J O S H T I L L

Cancer Center Expands Supportive Care & Survivorship Clinic

clinical update

HudsonAlpha Partnership with UAB

CANCER treatment is difficult, and many

patients experience a level of stress and distress

unlike anything they have ever encountered.

Over the last decade, the medical community

has become increasingly aware that patients

need more—and better—support both during

and after cancer treatment. Because of this, the

UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center has part-

nered with the UAB Center for Palliative and

Supportive Care to expand and enhance UAB’s

Supportive Care and Survivorship Clinic.

“The Supportive Care and Survivorship

Clinic actually has been in existence for about

10 years as part of the Center for Palliative

Care,” says Elizabeth Kvale, M.D., Cancer

Center associate scientist and clinic director.

“Historically, it’s been a small program, and

our engagement with the Cancer Center has

been limited.”

One factor limiting the scope of the clinic

was its location several blocks from UAB’s

primary treatment facilities—many patients

never knew the clinic even existed. Those who

did often found it difficult and inconvenient

to take advantage of its services. When the

Cancer Center came forward with a possible

solution, Dr. Kvale says she and the clinic’s

leaders were more than happy to listen.

A NEW AND IMPROVED SOLUTION Recognizing the growing need for more

supportive services, Cancer Center lead-

ers met with Dr. Kvale and her team to

discuss a partnership to expand the clinic’s

services. “We discussed the resources avail-

able from the Cancer Center, particularly the

Advisory Board’s Patient and Family Service

Committee,” Dr. Kvale says. “We had the

elements the Cancer Center was interested in

adding, and it all came together to move the

clinic and make it more visible to patients,

as well as to add services to fill gaps in the

treatment process.”

The result of those discussions is the

“new and improved” Supportive Care and

Survivorship Clinic, which formally opened

in January on the third floor of The Kirklin

Clinic. The clinic shares space with the UAB

Breast Health Center, and Dr. Kvale and her

team have worked to make the clinic space a

Dr. Kvale regularly tweets about supportive care and survivorship issues. Follow her on Twitter @elizabethkvale.