Patients with cancer often experience well-known, common side effects, such as hair loss during chemotherapy or skin issues during radiation. However, some patients will experience other cancer therapy side effects that don’t necessarily go away once treatment is complete. In some cases, cancer treatment may affect the heart, causing new problems or worsening existing ones. The UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute now offers cardio-oncology service to help patients at risk for such issues.
Cancer-induced heart problems affect nearly 10% of cancer patients. These problems, including conditions known as cardiotoxicity, can be caused by cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Symptoms of these health issues can develop immediately during treatment, or they can develop decades after cancer survivors complete treatment.
Common symptoms of cancer-induced heart problems include:
- Chest pain
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Leg swelling
- Shortness of breath
When undiagnosed, these issues can be a major cause of death for cancer survivors. Therefore, it is essential to detect and treat these cancer-induced issues.
All patients undergo rigorous screening for cardiovascular risk prior to cancer treatment. In addition to locating the cancer, providers must ensure the patient is healthy enough to endure the treatment.
One required test is an electrocardiogram (EKG), which evaluates the electrical activity of the heart. When a patient has an abnormal EKG, the patient may be referred to the cardio-oncologist. Other risk factors, including high blood pressure, may also be managed by the cardio-oncologist.
Collaboration between the cardio-oncologist and oncologist is ongoing as they develop a treatment plan to destroy cancer while preserving heart function. Throughout cancer treatment and beyond, patients visit the cardio-oncologist to help ensure early detection of any change in heart health.
Years of research determined a substantial link between cancer treatment and heart issues. As a response to this growing problem, cardio-oncology recently developed as a much-needed subspecialty. Now, UK HealthCare offers this service to residents of the Commonwealth.
For decades, UK HealthCare has been home to excellent oncology care at the UK Markey Cancer Center. Having that care supplemented by the cardiology experts at UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute provides oncology patients with a level of care not available at many other facilities in Kentucky. UK HealthCare is recognized as the No. 1 hospital in Kentucky by U.S. News & World Report, and the UK Markey Cancer Center is ranked as a top 50 cancer center in the country.