New Northwestern Lake Forest breast care director to expand program
Dr. Tara Breslin is the new medical director of the breast care program at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. | Courtesy of Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital
Updated: March 21, 2013 2:40PM
LAKE FOREST — Dr. Tara Breslin realized her medical passion focused on breast care and breast cancer while she was completing her three-year surgical oncology fellowship in Houston.
Now, the widely-published researcher and surgeon recently joined Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital as the new medical director of the breast care program and Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation. She also will serve as an associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Q. Why did you choose breast care and breast cancer care as your clinical focus?
A. I enjoy getting to know the patients, spending time with them and knowing how I can help them through the diagnosis. Understanding what it means in their lives and to them personally helps me make recommendations for their treatment.
Q. What is your goal at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital?
A. We already have a very strong, well-staffed breast care program. They’ve been serving the women in this community for a long time and doing an excellent job. My goal as the breast program medical director is to expand the program in terms of offering our services to more patients, and to bring in some new services that haven’t been available in the past. Some of those new services would be high-risk counseling and genetic counseling for women with a family history of breast or other cancers and greater access to clinical trial for both prevention and treatment.
Q. Why is clinical trial access important?
A. Clinical trials are an important mechanism for discovering new knowledge. For some patients, it may provide access to new regimens or new treatments.
Q. When you came to Lake Forest, is there anything you were surprised to see?
A. I was happy to see what a dedicated program already existed and to know that I have such a great group of colleagues to work with. We’re all really on the same page about building this program in terms of its scope and quality.
Q. Overall, is breast cancer getting better or worse?
A. The big theme is there are more treatment options available and we’re learning which patients need less treatment. We’re developing more sophisticated ways of determining optimum therapies so only patients who are going to benefit from chemotherapy will have chemotherapy recommended. Another major theme in oncology today is measuring the quality of care.
Q. How do you measure quality of care?
A. We know that patients who receive appropriate adjuvant therapy — additional treatment — have better outcomes than those who do not receive adjuvant therapy. Some of the quality measures that are used in breast cancer care include measuring whether the patients at a particular hospital receive appropriate surgical and adjuvant therapy. We can look for outliers and work to improve the quality of care in institutions that don’t meet the quality benchmarks. These quality-improvement programs are important for improving care across institutions and across regions.
Q. How close are we to discovering a cure?
A. I think that our understanding of breast cancer continues to evolve. A hundred years ago, breast cancer was treated with surgery alone. There was no chemotherapy, there was no hormone therapy and no radiation therapy. Over the past 40 years, the adjuvant therapies have been developed to maximize treatment efficacy. What we have are a variety of treatments available that can improve and prolong survival. Even when one treatment regimen stops working, there’s often an alternate effective therapy.
Q. Are you reaching out to younger women for breast care?
A. Not really. The American Cancer Society and other organizations still recommend women begin screening mammography at age 40. What’s come to light recently is that some studies have reported an increase in incidence in advanced breast cancer in young women. That doesn’t indicate we should change the age at which we begin screening. It reinforces the concept that breast problems at any age should be evaluated appropriately.
Q. Is there a clinical question you’d like to see answered?
A. One of the things I’m very passionate about is ensuring quality of care regardless of where the patient lives or what hospital they go to. This requires that we, as oncology professionals and institutions, become partners in learning so we can understand the best ways to deliver care. The goal is for everybody to receive appropriate, evidence-based breast cancer care.