Australian researchers are developing a model of care to reduce cardiovascular disease in breast cancer survivors, The Lead portal reports. Breast cancer treatment increases the risk of cardiovascular disease but in the past the two have been treated separately.
The two-year study begins in July and will bring together experts in cancer, cardiology and nursing at Flinders University in South Australia. The team will develop a framework for effective, evidence-based care, where cardiovascular risk management is embedded into breast cancer care to reduce a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease. It will also give the patient access to cardiovascular services they need in a timely manner while coping with the pressures of their cancer treatment.
Cardiovascular disease is Australia’s biggest killer and breast cancer the most commonly diagnosed cancer, yet no formal clinical pathway for prevention, monitoring and management of this risk exists – leading to care that is often fragmented and variable.
The Flinders University study is funded through a grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Professor Bogda Koczwara from the Cancer Survivorship Research Group at the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer said once developed, the model of care could be applied across Australia and potentially internationally. “The issue of heart disease after cancer is becoming more and more recognized around the world so much so that there is a new discipline evolving called Cardioncology,” Project Lead Professor Koczwara said. “There are emerging guidelines of what should be done but not a lot of direction of who should do it so I think the model of care is what’s missing. We hope to develop and test the model and use it in other cancers and in other settings.”
Breast cancer accounts for more than 13% of all new cancers and 28% of all cancers diagnosed in women.
Flinders University’s Professor of Cardiology Derek Chew is a co-researcher on the project and Head of Cardiology at the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network. He said it was not practical to expect every breast cancer patient to be seen by a cardiologist. “However cancer specialists are not always skilled in managing risk factors for cardiac disease, and general practitioners may not be aware of the potential for cardiotoxicity caused by cancer treatment,” Professor Chew said.
Professor Robyn Clark from Flinders College of Nursing and Health Sciences, who is a Fellow with the Heart Foundation, said the project would demonstrate the important role nurses play in cardiac and cancer care. “The outcome will be a practical model, led by nurses, which will facilitate a safe journey through cancer treatment and give breast-cancer survivors every opportunity to significantly reduce their risk of heart disease,” Professor Clark said. “We’ll also be evaluating how it’s impacting on actual health outcomes – including quality of life, and cardiac events.”