Telephone counseling sessions increase likelihood that childhood cancer survivors receive cardiac screening

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According to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, have found that written heart screening guidelines plus telephone counseling from specially trained nurses doubled the probability that adults who survived cancer during their childhood received recommended cardiac monitoring.

The researchers sought to investigate why adult survivors do not get the recommended cardiac screenings to detect for cardiomyopathy caused by cancer treatment and how to motivate them to receive the recommended periodical screenings.

They found that cardiac screenings by adult cancer survivors increased from 22.3% to 52.2% when survivors received follow-up telephone counseling from specially trained nurse practitioners in addition to the standard written recommendations. The nurse practitioners identified barriers that were preventing patients from receiving the cardiomyopathy screening and motivated them to overcome those barriers.

Patients received two telephone calls 2 weeks apart beginning 1 week after receiving the written recommendations and follow-up letters summarizing each telephone counseling session. Of the 153 survivors, cardiomyopathy was identified in 10% and 52.2% had heart abnormalities that warranted further monitoring. Patients who did not receive telephone calls were more likely to blame their health care provider for not recommending the screening.

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Written heart screening guidelines plus telephone counseling doubled the probability of receiving cardiac monitoring.

Supplementing written heart screening guidelines with telephone counseling from specially trained nurses more than doubled the likelihood that adult survivors of childhood cancer received recommended heart checks, according to results from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS). St. Jude Children's Research Hospital investigators led the research, whose findings appear in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The research focused on adults whose childhood cancer treatment put them at risk for a variety of heart problems, including heart muscle weakness known as cardiomyopathy, which can lead to heart failure and other health problems. This study was designed to understand and address why more survivors do not get the periodic heart screenings that are recommended to detect cardiomyopathy early when interventions may slow disease progression and prevent heart failure.

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