Specialized Heart Care for Cancer Patients
Known as long-term side effects, or late effects, some common cancer treatments can result in damage to the heart. The Cardio-oncology Program at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s is one of a few in the nation where heart and cancer specialists work together to treat and protect your child’s heart before and during every stage of cancer treatment - and beyond.
We provide comprehensive care and compassionate support of a multidisciplinary team of pediatric specialists, including cardiologists, hematologists, oncologists and nurses.
Reducing Cancer Therapy’s Impact on Heart Health
As an academic medical center, our advanced research teams of pediatric specialists at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s promote lower dose imaging and lower dose treatments in their continuing effort to find better ways to protect the hearts of children.
These new and improved standards of care have improved childhood cancer survival rates and reduced cancer’s impact on heart health. But chemotherapy and radiation can still have significant and potentially life-threatening cardiovascular side effects - even years after treatment.
The majority of chemotherapy drugs can’t distinguish between healthy cells and cancer cells. As a result, they can cause visible side effects, such as hair loss and fatigue, as well as invisible damage to the heart and arteries. Heart tissue is particularly susceptible to the effects of anthracyclines, a class of anti-tumor antibiotics used on a variety of cancers. These drugs can permanently damage the heart if given at high doses. However, the side effects may not be apparent for decades.
Children who have received chemotherapy drugs and/or radiation therapy are at greater risk for the following heart conditions:
- Heart failure
- Pericardial, vascular and ischemic heart disease
- QT prolongation
- Ventricular dysfunction
Advanced Heart Monitoring Expertise for Early Detection
At University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, we use the very latest advancements in cardiac monitoring which provide detailed pictures of the heart structure and identify heart function issues earlier. This advanced monitoring technology means our experts can diagnose and initiate treatment much sooner and prevent cardiac problems, even while continuing cancer treatment. Advanced heart monitoring capabilities include:
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Functional exercise testing
- Novel biomarkers and imaging techniques
- Strain echocardiography
Many children who experience cancer treatment may have heart problems that manifest years, even decades, following treatment. It’s important that you and your child remain vigilant for new symptoms that may indicate changes in heart function and receive regular cardiac screenings.
A Lifetime of Expert Heart Care
At UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, we offer each child superb care that extends into young adulthood and beyond. Through all growth and development phases, our team can address any cardiac concerns that arise from cancer treatment. For both children and their families, our leading-edge physicians become partners in care for life. We’re here for you and your child—to provide emotional support, manage anxieties and help you adjust to any new diagnosis and treatment.
Heart-healthy Habits for Cancer Survivors
As a comprehensive cancer program for children, teens and young adults, our Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Institute at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital provides access to nationally recognized AYA hematology-oncology physicians, life-saving clinical trials, supportive psycho-social programming and advanced technologies such as proton therapy all in a facility designed for patient comfort. Angie’s Institute is the region’s leader for cancer care and is dedicated to improving survival outcomes for patients.
The quality of life for cancer survivors may be improved by behaviors that promote health and well-being. These include a healthy diet, exercise and regular medical and dental checkups that can help prevent heart disease. Healthy behaviors may make side effects less severe and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes. Through our Iris S. & Bert L. Wolstein's Helping Kids with Cancer program, we teach the benefits of physical activity and healthy eating.