Understanding the Relationship Between Heart Disease and Cancer Treatment
Many cancer treatments -- chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapies -- can cause side effects that damage the heart muscle and surrounding blood vessels. The damage can put you at higher risk for different types of heart conditions, including arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, heart failure, hypertension, hypotension, pericarditis, and more.
Reasons You May Be Referred
You may be referred to a Duke cardio-oncologist if your oncologist or health care provider determines that you are at risk for these and other conditions. For example, you may be referred to a cardio-oncologist if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol for their help in getting it under control. You may also be referred if you are over the age of 60 or smoke or if you have diabetes, obesity, or a pre-existing heart condition.
Your cardio-oncologist works closely with your oncologist to help you manage your condition during and after your treatment. Early identification of your risk can help prevent heart disease. Effective treatment of an existing heart condition can help slow its progression.
Ongoing Heart Disease Management
Your cardio-oncologist will coordinate your care with your oncologist during all phases of your cancer treatment.
Before Cancer Treatment
At your first visit, your cardio-oncologist will conduct a thorough cardiovascular risk assessment. This will include a review of your medical history and a physical exam.
You may also undergo an electrocardiogram (EKG) and a heart imaging test (echocardiogram). These tests will help your doctor determine how well your heart is functioning and whether your risk for heart disease requires medication or lifestyle changes to protect and strengthen your heart during cancer treatment.
Follow-Up Visits During Cancer Treatment
Ongoing visits with your cardio-oncologist will help identify small changes in heart function that should be addressed quickly so that your cancer treatment is not interrupted.
After Cancer Treatment Has Ended
Once treatment has ended, follow-up visits with your cardio-oncologist will identify heart or blood vessel damage that arises over time. This ongoing care will ensure the risk of heart disease is minimized so you can enjoy a healthy, cancer-free life.
Recognized Center of Excellence
The International Cardio-Oncology Society recognizes Duke's cardio-oncology program as one of the world’s few gold-status Global Centers of Excellence. The designation is given to programs that supply an exceptionally high concentration of expertise, resources, and associated care in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary fashion to achieve the best possible patient outcomes. The International Cardio-Oncology Society is the largest international organization for health care providers dedicated to cardiovascular care in cancer patients.