INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Many patients with cancer are at a higher risk of developing heart disease related to the therapies they undergo while being treated. However, an innovative collaboration at Franciscan Health Indianapolis is helping lower the threat.
The program is a nurse navigator-led collaboration of Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians (IHP) and medical oncologists and others at Franciscan Health Cancer Center. The care they provide patients includes heart risk assessments of patients before cancer treatment begins; monitoring and treating patients for heart complications during therapy; and assessment of long-term cardiac risk in cancer survivors.
“It is important to prevent, monitor and treat cardiovascular disease in patients going through cancer treatment to ensure their health,” said IHP cardiologist Vijay U. Rao, MD. PhD. “Our program’s focus is in response to research studies that clearly show that some drugs used in cancer care may have unanticipated side effects that can prove toxic to the heart and its functions. We don't want patients to have to stop their life-saving chemotherapy; we focus on how to continue chemotherapy safely."
More than 1,000 patients at the Cancer Center have received the specialized care since the program was launched in 2016.
“We have been successful, but we know more needs to be done and we work on these details every day,” said Meghana Raghavendra, MD, hematologist/oncologist. “The ACCC recognition attests to the commitment and professionalism of our multidisciplinary team.”
“Patient quality of life are top priorities for cancer teams,” said Randall A. Oyer, MD, Medical Director, Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health and ACCC President. “Franciscan Health’s collaboration manages the side effects in patients and is a huge step forward for patient care and other programs around the country can emulate its success and positive patient outcomes.”
Drs. Rao and Raghavendra both point to the nurse navigator role in making the Cardio-Oncology Program a robust success. Kerry Skurka, RN, and Holly Page, RN, work closely with patients before cancer treatment begins and continually monitor them throughout the entire process.