NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The fight against cancer extends far beyond the immediate effects of the disease.

That thought, in part, prodded Saint Peter’s Healthcare System to launch last month a cardio oncology program, which is designed to protect the hearts of cancer patient. It’s key, according to the hospital, because heart issues are often a greater danger to cancer patients than the return of tumors.

“We are working together to treat the whole patient, not just the cancer,” Nidhi Kumar, a Saint Peter’s cardiologist and medical director of women’s health, said. “We now know that with advanced technology, early detection and patient education, we can lower risks and help protect the heart.”

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In some cases, chemotherapy causes a greater risk for heart disease, according to the hospital.

The new program calls for cancer doctors, heart doctors and primary care physicians to work together in treating cancer patients, focusing on “overall wellness and heart health.”

The move also makes Saint Peter’s the first hospital in Central Jersey to dedicate a center to cardiac imaging for cancer patients. A new technology called “Strain imaging” allows doctors to detect “small changes in heart function” earlier than through prior means, according to the hospital.

But changes to how Saint Peter’s treats cancer patients are only medical. The hospital, for instance, has strived to improve the environment and, subsequently, the moods its cancer patients.

“Our goal was to offer our patients more just than another waiting room—as waiting rooms are often impersonal, uncomfortable and at times anxiety-provoking,” Kumar said. “Instead, we created a space to promote healing through art. Art can be a great refuge from the emotions associated with illness.”

A graphic designer and an artist have been commissioned to create artwork for a space where women relax before undergoing testing. Rather than chairs, “comfortable,” aesthetically pleasing pieces of furniture line the room.

What’s more, art supplies are available to patients. Medical professionals believe creating art can help people process what’s happening to them, according to the hospital.