Enhancing cancer treatment with a simple change

They say the moment of a cancer diagnosis, a patient becomes a survivor. 

But what does that really mean? 

Across the country, there’s a new effort to help people survive their often toxic therapy with a different focus — splitting physicians to tackle both the disease and the body’s overall health. 

A new study from City of Hope reveals when cancer patients get additional help while going through treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, they fare better.

Kanesha Broadwater had cancer in her breast, but recently at Northwestern Medicines’ Cancer Survivorship visit, doctors looked closely at her heart. 

“It’s not just during the patient and moving on to the next one but kind of following them through their course and trajectory of their cancer journey,” said nurse practitioner Karen Kinahan.  

The multidisciplinary approach adds nutritionists to help patients stay healthy while receiving powerful anti-cancer drugs as well as a cardiologist to mitigate any toxic effects to the heart. Plus, a pharmacist to gauge any potential interactions to prior medications and other specialists to aid in health.

The goal is to treat the entire patient, not just the cancer.

Daneng Li is an oncologist with City of Hope.

“We are basically saying we can support you through whatever chemotherapy you are getting and by doing that we can alleviate a lot of the toxic side effects of chemo that you might get,” Li said.

In the era of precision cancer medicine targeting tumors, this approach has a different target.  

“This is a more patient-centric approach to precision medicine that really allows us to detect each patient’s own vulnerability and thereby allowing us to better effectively care for all of our older adults with cancer. Ultimately it’s helping them to not only live longer but also to live better.”

Patients in the survivorship group experienced 10% fewer side effects and long-term complications from cancer therapy, they lasted longer in treatment while boosting their chance for survival compared to people who only got chemo and radiation.

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