The Karen Yontz Women’s Cardiac Awareness Center, located inside Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, has been educating women about heart disease for many years. Ken Yontz made the initial gift that helped start the center in honor of his late wife, Karen. The center is about to take on new life and no one is more excited about it than Ken.
“This new focus will really fit well into the cause of Karen’s death. She had Hodgkin’s in her 20s and had a significant amount of chemotherapy and radiation. She died from a heart attack at the age of 48. Her heart disease was all related to her cancer treatment,” Ken explains.
The name of the new program is the Karen Yontz Center for Cardio Oncology at Aurora Health Care. It will launch at Aurora St. Luke’s in early 2016. The program will be one of the first-of-its-kind featuring a unique collaboration between the cardiology and cancer service lines.
“We’re building a database that will monitor patients who are treated with potentially cardio-toxic chemotherapy. This will allow us to track any cardiac side effects resulting from the cancer treatment and modify treatment plans as appropriate,” says Bijoy Khandheria, MD, a cardiologist at Aurora St. Luke’s.
Dr. Khandheria says some patients, depending on their risk, will require heart screenings before, during and after their cancer treatment to see what kind of effect the chemotherapy drugs are having on the heart.
James Weese, MD, vice president of Aurora Cancer Care, says the collaboration will help oncologists and cardiologists refine their treatment plans. The center will use molecular studies to find those patients who will be at greatest risk to develop cardiac toxicity so
that their physicians can individually tailor drug dosing and cardiac monitoring when using those specific drugs.
“This could change how cancer patients are cared for in the future. Especially women, as many of the drugs being studied are often used to treat breast cancer,” explains Dr. Weese.
Ken is excited about the impact the program is going to have, “I’m just really encouraged. The doctors who are involved are extremely impressive individuals and they are very engaged. There’s a real need for this.”
“Because of donors like Ken, we’re going to advance the field and not just compete in it. This is setting a new standard,” explains Dr. Weese.