gdc
Survivorship

Cardio-Oncology: Where Heart Health and Cancer Care Meet

Susan Yaguda, RN, MSN, and Natalie Garces, RN, BSN, explore the overlooked connection between heart health and dealing with the chronic and long-term side effects of cancer treatment.
April 2018 Vol 4 No 2
Natalie Garces, RN, BSN
Survivorship Program Coordinator, Levine Cancer Institute, Charlotte, NC
Susan Yaguda, RN, MSN
Nurse Coordinator
Integrative Oncology
Levine Cancer Institute
Charlotte, NC

Early detection of cancer and improved treatments have led to more people living as long-term cancer survivors. As a result, increasing attention is being given to the chronic and long-term adverse effects of cancer treatment. One of these adverse effects can be heart disease, which is where cardio-oncology enters the picture. Cardio-oncology is the field in medicine that focuses on reducing heart problems caused or worsened by cancer treatment.

Why Should Cancer Survivors Think About Heart Health?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, so we all should be thinking about heart health. People who have been diagnosed with cancer are often likely to have other health problems that could lead to heart disease. In addition, some cancer treatments can temporarily or permanently damage the heart. This damage can happen during cancer treatment or take months or years after treatment ended to appear.

When to Talk with Your Doctor About Cancer-Related Heart Concerns

If you or your family have a history of heart problems, or if you have other risk factors for heart disease, ask your doctor what you should do to manage or reduce your risk.

If your treatment included cancer drugs called anthracyclines or Herceptin (trastuzumab), you may also be at risk for new heart problems. Patients who have had radiation to the chest may have additional risk for heart problems.

Ask your cancer doctors if you are at increased risk for heart problems because of your treatment, and how best to monitor for this.

How Do I Find the Right Healthcare Provider to Help Me with This?

Ask your doctor about seeing a cardiologist (a heart doctor), or if available, a cardio-oncologist (a heart doctor who is also an expert on cancer-related heart damage) for evaluation and recommendations. A cardiologist may recommend certain tests that will help to show if you have any heart problems. Early detection and treatment of these problems can provide better outcomes.

What Can You Do to Support Your Heart Health?

More people today are surviving a cancer diagnosis than ever before. Having heart disease can shorten a person’s survival time and affect one’s quality of life. Fortunately, the same things that help you feel good and keep your cancer away can also help keep your heart healthy.

Many cancer centers and local communities offer programs that can help you follow these heart-healthy recommendations:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating a well-balanced diet of mostly plants and avoiding processed foods will help your overall health, including your heart health.
  • Get regular physical activity. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes every day. Even just walking each day is good for your heart. If you have not been physically active, talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program.
  • Keep a healthy body weight. Extra weight increases the risk for several types of cancers, and it also puts added strain on your heart. Achieving and keeping a healthy body weight will help you to reduce the risks for cancer and for heart disease.
  • Avoid tobacco. This means avoiding all tobacco products. If you use tobacco, check in your community for a tobacco-cessation program. Most communities have such support programs, and they are often free.
  • Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar in a healthy range. These 3 factors contribute greatly to heart health. By eating well and staying physically active, you can also help keep your blood pressure in check and maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Key Points

  • People with cancer may have other health problems that could lead to heart disease
  • Some cancer treatments can temporarily or permanently damage the heart
  • If you or your family have a history of heart problems, ask your doctor how to reduce your risk

Patient Resources

American Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.org/healthy/eat-healthy-get-active/get-active/fitting-in-fitness.html
American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org/MyLifeCheck
National Cancer Institute
http://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2017/heart-attack-stroke-risk-cancer
Recommended For You
Patient StoriesSurvivorship
A New Perspective on Life
By Ronda M. Walker
Ronda M. Walker struggled to maintain a sense of normalcy as she fought breast cancer. This experience taught her to live in the moment and reminded her that life is short, and tomorrow is not promised.
Survivorship
The Survivorship Guide to Empowered Living: The 5 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Treatment
By Gina Shay-Zapien, APRN, CNS
Survivorship starts at diagnosis. Here are the lessons learned by Gina, a nurse and cancer survivor, on how to live an empowered survivorship.
MesotheliomaSurvivorship
Defying the Odds: How I’ve Survived a Male-Dominated Terminal Cancer for 7 Years
By Emily Ward, RN
Emily Ward was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer usually associated with men who are exposed to asbestos. After working as a nurse for more than 40 years, her surprising diagnosis led to a search for the best care possible.
Survivorship
Difficult Conversations: What to Expect When You Share the News of Your Diagnosis
By Carolyn Byrd, RN-BSN, CBCN
Sharing the news of a diagnosis with your family, friends, and coworkers is hard. But you have total control over how and when these conversations take place. Here’s a guide of what to expect.
Last modified: August 5, 2019

Subscribe to CONQUER: the patient voice magazine

Receive timely cancer news & updates, patient stories, and more.

Country