Care for people with cancer is not over when active treatment is completed. A follow-up plan after active cancer treatment is critical to ensure that your overall health is being addressed. Very often, cancer treatment can result in long-term side effects, and in some cases, can affect the heart. A question that comes up often is who should be seeing a cardiologist and when.
Some heart conditions associated with cancer treatment can include congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, hypertension, and arrhythmias (irregular or fast/slow heartbeats).
Some cancer drugs associated with heart conditions include anthracycline chemotherapy, anti HER2 based treatments, certain immunotherapy drugs, and some targeted therapies, such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Some people will be at higher risk of these side effects including:
- Patients with additional cardiac risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking history, and older age).
- Patients who received radiation to the left breast.
- Patients with cardiac disease prior to starting cancer treatment.
- Patients who received treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma as a child.
If you fall into these categories above, talk to your doctor about whether you would benefit from seeing a cardiologist. The cardiologist can assess your cardiovascular risk, decide if testing is necessary (such as EKG, echocardiogram, stress test, etc.), and counsel you on risk reduction (including exercise, diet, body weight, and not smoking!) Your oncologist or primary care teams may already be doing this, but some people do get the additional benefit from seeing cardiology.
Valley’s Cardio-Oncology Program is a collaborative program between the Heart and Vascular Institute and Valley-Mount Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Care. The service offers integrated, personalized care that protects a patient’s heart before, during, and after cancer treatment. Valley’s collaborative, multidisciplinary cardio-oncology team includes cardiologists, oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists, and radiologists.