Cancer Patients Need Special Heart Care
Better treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy has reduced cancer deaths significantly. But for some patients, cancer treatment can cause lasting damage to the heart by aggravating existing heart problems or creating new ones. The University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center has created the state’s first Cardio-Oncology Clinic with heart specialists focused on minimizing and preventing heart damage caused by chemotherapy and radiation. Only a handful of hospitals around the world have dedicated programs of scientists and physicians working to address cancer treatment’s impact on the heart.
Clinic Heart Specialists Focus on Preventing Heart Damage Caused by Cancer Treatment
Dr. Elina Yamada and Dr. Monika Leja evaluate patients at risk of, or who developed cardiotoxicity from cancer treatment. Without interrupting treatment, they work to identify and address cardiovascular risks and reduce the toxic effects of cancer therapies on the heart, what’s known among physicians as cardiotoxicity. (View a flippable PDF of the Winter 2013 issue of Thrive magazine, a publication for cancer patients and their caregivers. In this issue is an article featuring Drs. Yamada and Leja.)
Cardiovascular issues that can arise from cancer treatment include heart failure, heart attacks, high or low blood pressure and arrhythmias. As aggressive cancer drugs are used on older patients who may already have heart disease, and researchers identify a growing number of cardiovascular side effects of cancer treatment, making sure cancer patients have a healthy heart to enjoy the rest of their lives is gaining more importance.
Both Heart Patients and Cancer Patients Can Benefit from the Clinic
For heart patients, clinic doctors perform pre-surgical or pre-treatment evaluations for those patients with cardiac conditions who are also being treated for cancer, and provide medical care to improve heart function prior to a cardiac surgery or procedure.
Cancer patients, with or without known heart disease or risk, and cancer survivors can benefit from a clinical assessment of heart function and, if needed, continued medical care for the heart. About one-third of cancer patients who receive chemotherapy drugs such as trastuzuman (Herceptin) and anthrycyclines will experience damage to their heart cells. Working with the patient’s cancer team, doctors at the Cardio-Oncology Clinic evaluate and prescribe treatment to improve heart function without interrupting cancer treatment. Doctors also evaluate and treat cancer survivors when a major illness, injury or even pregnancy triggers a reaction by the heart to the toxic effects of previous cancer treatment. The U-M will use strain imaging, a specialized form of echocardiography, to provide a detailed analysis of specific segments of the heart in order to predict damage before it occurs.
The clinic is in the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, a 5-level facility that unites the U-M Health System’s cardiovascular services, located at the heart of the medical campus at the corner of Ann and Observatory streets in Ann Arbor.
Make an Appointment
To make an appointment for heart or vascular care, call the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center New Patient Coordination Center at 888-287-1082.