However, other serious health conditions could occur as a result of cancer and its treatment, the most common of those being cardiovascular disease.
Knowing this, cancer and cardiovascular experts at both the University of Cincinnati (UC) Cancer and Heart, Lung and Vascular Institutes have teamed up to launch a dedicated program for those at risk of developing cardiac conditions associated with cancer and its treatment.
The program, including a dedicated ambulatory clinic which launched in December 2018, is held on Thursday afternoons on the second floor of the UC Health Barrett Cancer Center.
“Cardiovascular events are the No. 1 killers in cancer survivors,” says Richard Becker, MD, Mabel Stearns Stonehill Chair of Cardiology at the UC College of Medicine and director of the UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute. “We are working with clinicians and nurse practitioners within the UC Cancer Center Survivorship Program and pharmacists at the UC Health Barrett Cancer Center to identify those patients who have the greatest risk of developing a cardiac condition during or after their treatment for cancer. This is done using a specific cardiovascular risk calculator, called a screener. When a need for intervention is determined, the patient is given a personalized treatment plan to minimize the chance of cardiovascular disease-related events such as a heart attack, stroke or heart failure from developing.”
Becker adds that cancer treatment can increase blood pressure, and in general, it can negatively affect the overall performance of the cardiac muscle and blood vessels.
“In this program, we image the heart and assess specific early markers of cardiovascular disease employing newly developed technology applied through a standard sound wave test or echocardiogram,” he adds. “We then have the option to prescribe protective medication for the patient and create a plan that helps him or her manage nutrition, exercise and rehabilitation to avoid adverse events. Many of these steps are already recommended for standard cardiac patients—they are effective and widely implementable. We use techniques that are already used in the clinic, including managing cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar and ensuring the patient is participating in healthful activities.”
Becker, who is trained in both hematology and cardiovascular disease at the Cleveland Clinic and University of Massachusetts, is coordinating the program and clinic alongside William Barrett, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the UC College of Medicine and director of the UC Cancer Center.
“One of the great strengths of the university is the combination of highly subspecialized experts in different fields, working collaboratively for the good of the patients we have the privilege of seeing,” says Barrett. “This clinic fulfills a great need and is a tremendous resource for our region and beyond.”
“Cardiovascular oncology is an emerging field, and we are so happy to offer this locally for patients,” Becker adds. “We’ve had some growth within the Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute this last year, and this is just another tool to providing the best, most comprehensive care in the city. This is an important early intervention that could save lives, as many cardiovascular symptoms don’t present immediately. This is another example of multidisciplinary teams working together to ensure the best outcomes for patients.”
With questions or to schedule an appointment, call 513-584-6043.