While chemotherapy and radiation therapy have vastly improved survival rates from cancer, studies indicate that at least 30% of all cancer patients will develop some cardiovascular complications from their treatment.
“Many chemotherapy agents and immunotherapies have some impact on the cardiovascular system, some of which can be toxic to the heart muscle or cause hypertension, blood clots, or excessive fluid retention that can weaken the heart,” says cardiologist Sidney Glasofer, MD, director of the Cardio-Oncology Program at Overlook Medical Center.
“Radiation, particularly in the chest area, can cause premature atherosclerosis, leading to heart attacks, arrhythmia, valve disease, or disease to the lining of the heart,” he continues. “These effects may occur early, during cancer treatment, or years later when patients are deemed cancer-free.”
“If you are currently undergoing cancer treatment, have been previously treated for cancer, or you have cardiac risk factors and are about to start cancer treatment, it’s important to be monitored by a cardiologist,” advises Dr. Glasofer.
The Cardio-Oncology Program, a newly formed collaboration between Overlook’s oncology and cardiology teams, can do the following: ·
- Assess your risk for developing cardiovascular disease before undergoing cancer treatment.
- Monitor your heart health for any complications during your cancer treatment.
- Identify cardiotoxicities in patients undergoing treatment with new chemotherapies.
- Manage patients with existing cardiac conditions to maximize the effectiveness of cancer treatment.
- Manage the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease among cancer survivors.
Using state-of-the-art imaging technology – including advanced Strain echocardiology – cardiologists can identify cardiac abnormalities related to chemotherapy before symptoms appear.
“Cardio-oncology is a field of increasing importance in the comprehensive care of cancer patients,” says Eric D. Whitman, MD, medical director of Atlantic Health System Cancer Care. “As novel oncologic therapies are utilized in the fight against cancer, we need to be extra vigilant in preventing heart disease among people undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, as well as understand the impact of cancer treatment on people being treated for heart disease.
Dr. Glasofer is part of Atlantic Medical Group, a multispecialty network of health care providers. Learn more >