University Hospitals Offers Leading-Edge Cardiovascular Care for All Cancer Patients
While cancer therapy has improved dramatically over the past several decades with a notable increase in survival rates, some cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can potentially cause heart problems. The development of unexpected heart issues can necessitate interruption and even discontinuation of cancer treatment, causing tumors to grow and decreasing chances of a cure. Therefore, keeping the heart healthy during cancer treatment is essential to delivering optimal patient care and achieving good outcomes.
As one of a select few institutions in the world, University Hospitals offers a Cardio-Oncology Program that provides comprehensive cardiovascular care for all cancer patients. This innovative program, a collaboration between University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute and University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, is devoted to screening, monitoring and treating any heart problem before, during or after cancer therapy. By protecting the cardiovascular system, we ensure patients are safely and maximally treated for their cancer, thus providing the best care path to a cure.
Heart and Blood Vessel Complications from Cancer Treatment
Some forms of cancer therapies, including certain chemotherapy agents and radiation to the chest, can put cancer patients at an increased risk of having adverse cardiovascular events, particularly within the first five years. The most feared cardiac complication of chemotherapy is heart failure. Anthracyclines (such as adriamycin), but also other agents such as Herceptin (trastuzumab), have been associated with heart failure.
In addition, other serious complications can develop with the use of a wide range of cancer treatments, including:
- High blood pressure (sunitinib, axitininb, pazopanib treatment for kidney cancer)
- Chest pain from vasospasm (5-FU and bevacizumab treatment for colon cancer)
- Abnormal heart rhythms (interleukin treatment for melanoma and kidney cancer)
- Blood clots (thalidomide treatment for multiple myeloma)
- Damage to structures of the heart (valves, heart arteries, pericardium or outer covering of the heart) from chest radiation for breast and lung cancer and lymphoma
Many of these complications can occur during cancer treatment, while others may only become apparent months or years after completing treatment. Therefore, preventive measures such as monitoring during cancer therapy and follow-up screenings of survivors are key priorities in our program.
Furthermore, patients older than 40 are more likely to have pre-existing heart disease – cancer may uncover or worsen cardiac issues in these patients. Our team of experts will carefully screen patients for cardiac disease and monitor their hearts through cancer treatment, in close collaboration with their oncologist.
Advanced Cardiac Monitoring Tools
Using the very latest advancements in cardiac surveillance, our experts can initiate treatment much sooner and prevent cardiac dysfunction while continuing cancer treatment.
Powerful heart monitoring tools include:
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- CT assessment of heart artery calcium
- CT angiography with HeartFlow® technology
- 3-D echocardiography with strain technology
- Novel biomarkers
- Functional exercise testing
- Endomyocardial biopsy
Cancer Patient Benefits
The Cardio-Oncology Program provides unparalleled benefits to patients by addressing the impact of cancer treatment on heart function, providing complete testing and management as well as outpatient and inpatient services on-site,
- All cancer patients are screened before initiating potentially cardiotoxic treatment, specifically anthracyclines, Herceptin, VEGF inhibitors and chest radiation therapy.
- Patients treated with novel molecular-targeted therapies that may have potential adverse heart side effects are carefully monitored.
- Cancer survivors receive follow-up screening and possible treatment for heart conditions that may or may not be related to their past cancer treatment.
- Cardiovascular specialists work closely with oncologists to monitor and adjust therapy for patients who may develop cardiac side effects from traditional cancer therapies.
- Patients with pre-existing heart issues and newly diagnosed cancer are shepherded safely through the medical and surgical treatment of their cancer.
Meet Our Team
The Cardio-Oncology Program team is comprised of clinical leaders, physician members and program coordinators, all of whom are dedicated to providing each patient with exceptional cardiovascular care during their cancer treatment.