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Telephone Counseling Encourages Heart Screenings in Adult Childhood Cancer Survivors

Update Date: Nov 04, 2014 12:01 PM EST

Preventive measures are key in reducing people's risk of developing health conditions. In a new study, researchers examined whether or not using telephone counseling on top of written guidelines can encourage adult childhood cancer survivors to get heart screenings. The team concluded that these phone call sessions can double screening rates.

In this Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS), the team headed by researchers from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital examined 472-childhood cancer survivors who had an increased risk of cardiomyopathy, which is a condition characterized by heart muscle weakness that can lead to problems, such as heart failure. The survivors went at least five years without a screening for cardiomyopathy. Their ages ranged from 35 to 59, with the average age of 40. All of the survivors received written recommendations but only 205 of them had two telephone counseling sessions conducted by nurse practitioners.

Overall, the screening rate in at-risk patients who received the written recommendations only was 22.3 percent. The screening rate jumped to 52.2 percent in patients who were a part of the intervention program involving telephone counseling. Out of the patients who underwent the recommended heart screening, 52.2 percent of them had heart abnormalities that required monitoring. 10 percent of the survivors had cardiomyopathy.

"This intervention offers a model for how to motivate other cancer survivors, including survivors of adult cancers, to be more proactive about their health," said the study's first and corresponding author Melissa Hudson, M.D., a member of the St. Jude Department of Oncology, reported in the press release. "This study shows that by understanding and addressing the concerns and obstacles survivors face to acting on screening recommendations, medical providers can increase the number of survivors who get this potentially life-saving test."

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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