By Steve Blanchard
February is American Heart Month, and Moffitt Cancer Center’s Cardio-Oncology Program is literally at the heart of the battle against cancer. The program, led by cardio-oncologist Michael Fradley, has a very specific role: keeping the hearts of cancer patients as healthy as possible during and after treatment.
While meant to be life-saving, cancer treatments can be tough on the body, specifically the heart. For patients with an underlying heart condition, cancer treatment could make them especially vulnerable.
“That doesn’t mean everyone will have cardiovascular complications following cancer treatment,” Dr. Fradley said. But “a variety of cardiovascular toxicities are associated with cancer therapeutics, the most common example being heart failure. However, heart attacks, heart rhythm disorders and heart valve disease can also occur.”
Not every cancer patient will experience heart complications, and if they do appear, it could be years after the patient has completed cancer treatment.
What is important to know, Dr. Fradley said, is that treating a cancer patient with problems of the heart differs from treating someone who has not undergone cancer treatment.
“We know that cancer survivors are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than noncancer survivor populations,” Dr. Fradley said. “As more patients are living longer and surviving different cancers, it becomes increasingly important to monitor and treat these cardiovascular issues. The last thing we want is for cardiovascular issues to become a barrier for a patient to receive potentially life-saving cancer treatments or for someone to survive cancer only to be left with lifelong debilitating cardiovascular disease.”
At Moffitt, our Cardio-Oncology Program collaborates closely with all cancer clinics, which better prepares doctors and patients for potential risks involving the heart.
“For both cancer patients and survivors, there is a huge benefit to being treated in a cancer center with a cardio-oncology program,” Dr. Fradley said. “We are a cancer center and we treat cancer. Our cardio-oncology team understands the complexities of their health care.”