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A project to improve supportive care services for younger women with breast cancer has received a grant of more than $780,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Lawrence Marks

“Younger women – those under 45 – who have breast cancer have a set of concerns that may differ in certain ways from those of other cancer patients,” said Lawrence Marks, MD, chair of the department of radiation oncology and the project’s principal investigator.

“They may also have concerns about genetic factors, the long term effects of anti-cancer therapies, or worries about how to change their life-style to positively influence their future health. They are also at a stage of life where they may be building their careers, raising children or facing other challenges.”

While UNC offers a broad spectrum of support services through its Comprehensive Cancer Support Program, many women do not take full advantage of the programs offered such as genetic counseling, psychological counseling, survivorship services, nutrition counseling and smoking cessation services.

Marks, who is also a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, will be working with a team of colleagues to define the gap between the needs of patients in this group and their actual utilization of beneficial support services. They will perform a survey, and do a formal assessment of existing procedures (using the “Lean Methodology” central to the Toyota production system), to identify barriers that keep health care providers from working with these patients.

Marks, who also studies process improvement in the health care setting says, “We hope that this study will provide the information we need to modify existing systems or create alternative systems that facilitate assessment of patients’ needs and utilization of needed support services. The goal is to be both more effective and efficient”

Other members of the research team include UNC Lineberger members:

  • Deborah Mayer, PhD, RN, AOCN, FAAN
  • Thomas Shea, MD
  • Donald Rosenstein, MD
  • Jean Sellers, RN, MSN, OCN, and
  • Marianne Jackson, MD.

Dr. Jackson, relatively new to UNC, has specialized training in operations efficiency and the application of “Lean” methods to the health care setting.

Media contact: Ellen de Graffenreid, 919-962-3405,