August 16, 2022
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Specialists from the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in north central Pennsylvania have teamed up to provide a new service aimed at diagnosing and preventing cardiovascular disease in cancer patients and survivors.
The UPMC Center for Cardio-Oncology, led by Eugene Muchnik, M.D., a medical oncologist, and Donald Nardone, M.D., a cardiologist, offers collaborative care to better monitor cancer patients and survivors for any cardiovascular issues that may result from traditional cancer treatments.
“Cancer care and treatment have greatly evolved, and every day we’re making advances helping our patients thrive and survive,” said Dr. Muchnik. “As the number of cancer survivors continues to grow, so does the need to manage long-term effects of cancer treatment, especially those that affect patients’ hearts. As oncologists, we monitor our patients closely throughout treatment and into their survivorship journey for any potential concerns. This new service provides a channel to directly link our patients to cardiovascular specialists trained in treating oncology patients as soon as the need emerges.”
Although many cancers respond well to chemotherapy, some chemotherapy medications can weaken the heart muscle or cause abnormal heart rhythms. Radiation to the chest can also damage the heart, weakening it later in life. Sometimes the effects are immediately evident, but other times problems don’t appear until years or decades after cancer treatment. Consistent monitoring, screening and check-ins with a provider are essential elements of managing short-term and long-term effects of cancer treatment in survivors.
“Out of fear of the unknown and the belief that patients may not respond well to treatment, patients with heart problems and cancer often are undertreated for both issues,” says Dr. Nardone. “This disparity is something we’re looking to address by offering hope along with treatment in some very complicated patient cases. We know a lot about how chemotherapy and other treatments can affect a cancer patient’s heart, and we continue to learn more each day. We’re using what we’ve learned paired with the latest technology for screening and intervention to develop special treatment plans and preventative measures we can use to individually tailor our cardiac management. This ensures patients get the most effective, highest quality care possible.”
UPMC Center for Cardio-Oncology services are available by referral. Those undergoing cancer treatment should speak with their oncologist as to whether participating in the program would be beneficial.
For more information on cardio-oncology services available at UPMC in North Central Pa., visit UPMC.com/CardioOncologyNCPA.