Cancer & Cardiac Care – a Combined Effort to Enhance Survivorship

Cardiology and oncology often are considered separate medical fields, yet they frequently intertwine. Cardiovascular health before a cancer diagnosis and cardiovascular effects of cancer treatments both influence health outcomes in cancer survivors.

Cardio-oncology is an emerging field dedicated to optimizing the cardiovascular care cancer patients receive before, during and after their cancer treatment. Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center is at the forefront of this field with its cardio-oncology clinic, assessing heart issues a patient may have prior to cancer diagnosis, as well as  side effects that can occur during and following chemotherapy and radiation. This ensures patients the most comprehensive treatment at every level by focusing on cancer treatment and heart health.

We asked Dr. Leon Cannizzaro, lead of the cardio-oncology clinic and cardiologist, Our Lady of the Lake Louisiana Cardiology Associates, some common questions patients ask about their heart health and cancer treatment.

What are some possible effects of cancer treatment on the heart?

Cancer treatment drugs and radiation save lives and are designed to target and eliminate tumor cells. However, this can sometimes lead to collateral injury to other healthy tissues and organs, like the heart. The good news is, with our cardio-oncology clinic, through screening and monitoring, patients’ cardiac needs are addressed, allowing the clinic team, in coordination with the patient’s oncologist, to prevent and proactively manage any heart conditions that may arise.

What are some factors that can increase my risk of heart disease during treatment?

There are many factors that can lead to heart concerns before, during and even after cancer treatment. A known history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, tobacco abuse, and family history of heart disease are all common risk factors that increase a person’s risk for cancer treatment related cardiovascular toxicity.

How can patients help their heart throughout their cancer journey?

There are many steps cancer patients can take to protect their heart. Making sure you manage blood pressure and cholesterol as well as regular exercise can go a long way. With the help of cancer navigators and nutritionists provided at the Cancer Center, patients can manage their weight and stress levels during treatment. Quitting smoking, exercising and eating right can all give any patient an edge in fighting cancer.

How does a patient know if they are a candidate for the cardio-oncology clinic?

I would recommend any cancer patient with a known history of heart disease or significant risk factors discuss with their oncologist if they would benefit from a referral to the cardio-oncology clinic.  Your doctor or cancer navigator can assist you with making an appointment.

What are the advantages of participating in the cardio-oncology clinic?

Having a team of oncologists and cardiologists working together to develop and manage a patient’s treatment plan from the beginning gives our patients their best chance of beating cancer and reduces the opportunity for heart-related problems in the future. The partnership between the Cancer Center and Our Lady of the Lake’s Heart and Vascular Institute will ultimately comprehensively enhance survivorship.

For more information on the Cancer Center’s cardio-oncology clinic, click here or speak to your oncologist.