Thanks to improvements in cancer detection and treatment, there are over 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States. However, as cancer survivors live longer, many become at risk for heart problems due to the long-term effects of the very treatments that saved them. Thanks to the work of cardiologists and oncologists, doctors and patients are discovering how to minimize cardiac issues, long after cancer treatments have ended.
While treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy do a great job eliminating cancer, they often trigger side effects that can damage the heart -- hypertension, arrhythmia, heart failure or cardiovascular disease. For example, Hodgkin lymphoma survivors are 3.8 times more likely to die from heart disease than people of a similar age who didn't have Hodgkin lymphoma, while breast cancer survivors also face a looming risk of heart disease.
Unfortunately, two common breast cancer systemic therapies, a class of drugs and a targeted therapy, often used in combination or separately, are both known to damage the heart. Additionally, some breast cancer treatments block estrogen, a hormone that has a protective effect on the heart, and if the heart is in the radiation field, there is an increased risk for early and late cardiac effects.
Men who have survived prostate cancer and received androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) may also have an increased heart risk. ADT is known to increase fat mass, "bad" cholesterol and cause blood sugar abnormalities, all of which can lead to diabetes, heart attack and stroke.
In an evolving discipline of medicine known as cardio-oncology, cardiologists, oncologists and researchers have been collaborating to address the cardiac effects of cancer treatments and monitor survivors.
Cancer patients and survivors should inquire if their cancer treatment may adversely affect their heart. This is especially important for older individuals with chronic health problems such as obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or known cardiac diseases. Regardless of age or health status, cancer patients and survivors should monitor closely for symptoms of heart problems.
NewYork-Presbyterian Cancer Centers provide comprehensive cancer care at comfortable, state-of-the-art locations throughout the New York metropolitan area and Westchester. Board-certified medical oncologists collaborate with cancer specialists to provide patients with individualized plans of care. The teams works closely with faculty at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), many of whom are world-class experts in their respective fields.
The Cardio-Oncology program at CUMC is one of only a handful of programs in the region that focuses on cardiac issues throughout the cancer treatment process, from diagnosis through treatment and survivor issues. The program is leading important research about the cardiac needs of people with cancer and cancer survivors, and is now being developed at the hospital's Westchester sites.
To find a cardiologist or cancer specialist at the location most convenient for you, please visit nyp.org/cancerlocations.
NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the largest and most comprehensive hospitals in the nation, ranked New York’s No. 1 hospital for the 16th consecutive year, and No. 6 in the United States, according to the U.S. News and World Report. Affiliated with two academic medical colleges – Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian brings together internationally recognized researchers and clinicians to develop and implement the latest approaches for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center is only one of three NCI designated comprehensive cancer centers in New York State. NewYork-Presbyterian provides comprehensive cancer care at all locations throughout the New York metro area including, Westchester County. Learn more at nyp.org/cancer .