Hearts are at risk when fighting against breast cancer - due to toxic side effects of common treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Depending on age and other factors, up to 30 percent of patients receiving chemo therapy or radiation therapy may develop heart damage related to treatment. Orlando Health Heart Institute and UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health have developed a new Cardio-Oncology Program to help keep hearts beating strong throughout breast cancer treatments.
The program is made up of a multidisciplinary team including cardiologists, oncologists, advanced nurse practitioners, and other clinicians, working together to protect hearts.
With the program, clinicians evaluate patients prior to receiving treatment for a baseline assessment of their hearts. The baseline helps cardiologists detect changes as they monitor patients throughout the course of cancer treatments. Testing before, during, and after cancer treatments may include echocardiograms, blood tests, and other diagnostics to show markers and indications that a person has heart damage, or is at high risk to develop heart problems. If heart damage is detected, or risk factors are determined, cardiologists and oncologists work together to adjust cancer treatments, or prescribe heart medications. The changes may prevent heart damage, reverse damage, or help stop the damage from getting worse.
Heart problems resulting from cancer treatments include cardiomyopathy - a disease that weakens and enlarges the heart muscle. As the condition worsens it can lead to heart failure or irregular heartbeats. Other potential cardiac conditions include heart attack, arterial valve problems, and damage to the heart membrane.
The program is beginning with a focus on patients being treated for breast cancer who receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy on the left side of their chest. There are future plans to expand the program to help patients with other cancers.