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Cholesterol screening a cost-effective procedure to extend life in Hodgkin's disease survivors

Hodgkin's lymphoma survivors who have lipid screening every five years to detect high cholesterol will live a half year longer than patients who don't have the screening and the intervention is cost-effective, according to a study presented November 8, 2006, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 48th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

"Although physicians are aware that Hodgkin's lymphoma survivors are at increased risk of heart disease, it hasn't been well-established how to best monitor these patients," said Aileen Chen, M.D., M.P.P, lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston. "Our study shows that lipid screening in Hodgkin's survivors is cost effective and provides physicians with a guideline on how frequently they should be screening for high cholesterol, an important risk factor for heart disease."

Hodgkin's lymphoma survivors who received radiation therapy to the chest to cure their cancer are at an increased risk of heart disease compared to the general population because the heart (located in the chest cavity) receives a small amount of radiation when the nearby lymph nodes are treated. Hodgkin's survivors who have high cholesterol are more likely to develop heart disease.

Lipid screening tests are simple blood tests that check the level of lipids or cholesterol in the blood. A high level of cholesterol increases the chance of having heart disease which can lead to heart attacks. If caught early, this condition can be treated with cholesterol-lowering medications.

Dr. Chen's study compared lipid screening every five years starting five years after treatment versus no lipid screening in a cohort of 25-year-old Hodgkin's survivors treated with chest radiation. Patients who screened positive for high cholesterol were treated with statins, a type of cholesterol-lowering medication which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and death from heart disease. The study found that patients who had lipid screening, with statin therapy, if needed, lived six months longer than those who had no screening test.

Beth Bukata | EurekAlert!
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