Cardiology and Oncology team up!
The field of cardio-oncology came about as cancer specialists began to see how new cancer drugs might be more effective at treating cancer but may have different effects on the heart, including weakening of the heart or congestive heart failure. Furthermore, new imaging methods allow cardiologists to detect the effects of cancer drugs on the heart earlier.
The formalized program began developing after representatives from the Vanderbilt University Cardio-Oncology program spoke at GHS on their success integrating the two fields. The GHS team has discussed protocols and the structure of the program, and started working with the first group of patients. The team has created a database that includes all GHS patients with cancer who are on medications deemed high risk for heart issues. The team is currently working on assuring these patients are scheduled for monitoring echocardiograms and cardiac evaluation if needed.
The cardio-oncology program at GHS provides collaborative evaluation between Oncologists and Cardiologists in the care of cancer patients who have received cancer drugs that may be cardio toxic or harmful to the heart. The objectives of our program are to provide expert advice and guidance for patients who will undergo cancer treatment and aid in the prevention, monitoring and management of possible cardiac toxicities.
The introduction of more successful anti-cancer treatments has contributed to improved survival rate in the United States. There are more than 12 million cancer survivors in the U.S. alone, and we realize that longer survival means we need to examine the long-term adverse effects on patients overall health and quality of life. Cardio toxicity, which means the heart becomes weaker and is not as efficient in pumping and circulating blood, is a common adverse effect of many cancer treatments. It may also affect patient survival and quality of life.
When a patient is undergoing treatment for cancer, defeating the disease is the primary objective. But doctors now recognize that observing and treating the cardio toxic effects of that treatment can be just as important.
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 because of the type of chemotherapy needed to eradicate the cancer. For some new breast cancer drugs, up to 10 percent of patients have some form of heart failure, but the earlier heart issues are caught, the sooner they can be addressed.
“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 Mark A. O’Rourke, MD, medical director at the GHS Center for Integrative Oncology and 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,” Jeff A. Dendy, MD 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.”