The continuous advancement of cancer treatment has contributed to an improved survival rate in the United States. There are currently more than 12 million cancer survivors in this country alone. Long-term cancer survival rates, while encouraging, mean we need to examine the long-term adverse effects of treatment on each patient’s overall health and quality of life.
One area of concern that has been identified is cardio-toxicity. This occurs when the heart becomes weaker and not as efficient in pumping and circulating blood. Cardio-toxicity is a common adverse effect of many cancer treatments.
When a patient is undergoing treatment for cancer, defeating the disease is the primary objective. However, our team recognizes that observing and treating the cardio-toxic effects of treatment can be just as important. The Cardio-Oncology Program is lead by Prisma Health specialists, Mark O’Rourke, MD, Prisma Health Cancer Institute and Jeffrey Dendy, MD, Prisma Health Carolina Cardiology.
“Some chemotherapy drugs can cause side effects on the heart, and those side effects need to be monitored while patients are receiving those drugs,” said Dr. O’Rourke, medical director at the Prisma Health Center for Integrative Oncology & Survivorship. “After people have completed chemotherapy, sometimes issues related to heart function develop.”
“We’re identifying high-risk medications and performing echocardiograms to make sure patients are staying out of trouble,” Dr. Dendy said. “We want them to stay on the drugs as long as possible to beat the cancer, but we also can give them medications that help the heart pump more efficiently.”
If you have been diagnosed with cancer, it is important to know that heart problems can arise from chemotherapy, radiation and hormone cancer treatments. Patients who have heart or vascular conditions at the time they are diagnosed with cancer are especially vulnerable to the cardiovascular effects of cancer treatments.
Patients with breast cancer often need cardio-oncology services due to the type of chemotherapy used to eradicate the cancer. Up to 10% of patients using some of the latest medications for breast cancer have a form of heart failure. The earlier heart issues are caught, the sooner they can be addressed.