More people are living longer after a cancer diagnosis than at any time in the past. This is the result, in part, to new therapies and strategies for treating cancer. But some of these same treatments that have improved outcomes can also damage the heart and lead to cardiovascular problems, including hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia and heart failure. This is especially true for patients who already have an increased risk for heart disease.
According to the National Cancer Institute, adult survivors of childhood cancers are 10 times more likely to develop coronary disease and 15 times more likely to develop heart failure than their siblings. Treatment-related cardiovascular side effects – known as cardiotoxicities – are also common among survivors of adult cancers.
Under the direction of Nausheen Akhter, MD, the Cardio-Oncology Program is a collaboration between the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. This comprehensive program is designed to provide seamless care between cardiology and oncology services for every patient affected by cancer at Northwestern, including:
- Provide pre-treatment cardiac risk assessments for patients with pre-existing heart disease or increased risk for development of cardiac toxicities with anti-cancer therapies.
- Develop a cancer treatment plan alongside a patient’s oncologist, to ensure that anti-cancer therapies are given safely, without stopping necessary treatment.
- Monitor high risk patients during anti-cancer therapies for early detection of adverse cardiac effects. Depending on type of therapy and patient risk, this monitoring includes state-of-the-art imaging technologies, such as advanced echocardiographic myocardial deformation/strain imaging and three-dimensional imaging, and biomarkers for early detection of cardiac toxicities.
- Provide individualized patient education about cardiovascular risks from cancer therapy before, during and after treatment.
- Develop innovative research to will advance better treatment and outcomes for our patients.
In collaboration with institutions throughout Chicagoland, we also participate in regular educational programs through the Chicago City-wide Cardio-Oncology Rounds (chicagocardiooncrounds.org)
For information or to schedule an appointment with the Cardio-Oncology program, please call 312.664.3278 (312 NM.HEART).
Learn more about how cancer treatment can affect the heart from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) website.
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