Cardio-Oncology: Why Weaving Cancer and Heart Care Together Matters

To cancer patients, cancer survivors, and your families:

In the not-too-distant past, cancer care and heart care rarely intersected. Your oncologist was busy with your cancer treatment, and your cardiologist may have been separately taking care of your heart if you had an existing heart problem. But, more than likely, the two didn’t collaborate on your care.

Seven years ago, we flipped that on its head and started an important and potentially life-saving collaboration here at Lehigh Valley Health Network with the formation of the region’s first cardio-oncology program. Here’s why.

Certain cancer treatments can weaken heart muscle, a condition known as cardiotoxicity. It can raise blood pressure or cause the heart to beat out of sync, a condition known as arrhythmia. The goal of the cardio-oncology program is to minimize or prevent heart-related problems due to cancer treatments.

Cancer and heart disease share risk factors, including smoking, obesity, poor nutrition, and diabetes, so collaboration inside a cardio-oncology program is a natural fit that can serve as a preventive measure to help both cancer patients and cancer survivors. Heart specialists in our cardio-oncology program assess a patient’s heart disease risk and work with the patient’s oncologist to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Our cardio-oncology program combines the best of both worlds – expertise from Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute and Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute. What’s more, it’s being noticed on a global scale. We are recognized as a gold-level global center of excellence by the International Cardio-Oncology Society (IC-OS). Just 31 hospitals or health systems in the world have gold ratings, including 22 in the U.S. Lehigh Valley Health Network is one of only two IC-OS centers of excellence in Pennsylvania.

Two of our doctors and one nurse practitioner are IC-OS board certified.

Cancer care is changing rapidly, so a cardio-oncology program is integral to updating knowledge about how that care can affect heart health. We’re working to increase the level of understanding about the potential for cardiotoxicity. Many people have no idea there could be any connection between the heart and oncology drugs.

To date, the program has served more than 650 patients.

Should cancer touch your life or the life of a loved one, our cardio-oncology program partners with you to both fight cancer and protect your heart. A win-win, all close to home.

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