What is cardio-oncology?

As the number of cancer survivors continues to grow, so does the need to manage long-term effects of cancer treatment. UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute is partnering with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center to form the UPMC Center for Cardio-Oncology. This center combines the expertise of doctors, surgeons, nurses, and technicians in heart health and cancer care to prevent and manage one of the main concerns for cancer survivors: heart failure.

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What Is Cardio-Oncology?

Cardio-Oncology integrates cardiovascular care with cancer treatment. This emerging service works to prevent or treat the adverse cardiovascular effects of certain cancer treatments. 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 arise until years or decades after cancer treatment, making screening and follow-up important.

Additionally, many Americans already have heart disease or risk factors for heart disease. Nearly half of American adults have at least one of the top three risk factors for developing heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If a heart is already damaged by disease, cancer treatment can damage it further and pose an additional risk factor.

What Is Cardio-Oncology at UPMC?

The goal of this program is to identify risk factors early, prevent damage to the heart when possible, and manage cardiovascular risks even decades after treatment. These services are seamlessly integrated into cancer care before, during, and after treatment.

Matthew Harinstein, MD, a cardiologist specializing in echocardiography and nuclear cardiology, heads the cardiovascular side of the Center for Cardio-Oncology and partners with a cardiology care team and an oncology care team headed by oncologist Vikram Gorantla, MD. Their expertise, combined with research across UPMC facilities, informs how they manage the relationship between heart health and cancer. The goals of this collaborative center are to deal with cardiovascular issues caused by cancer-related treatments and get patients back on their appropriate therapies or find suitable alternatives. The physicians are continually updating their knowledge base to introduce more preventative measures and have established protocols to help streamline the process, while collaborating with cardiologists and oncologists throughout the health system.

Anyone who has a known cardiovascular condition, who is at higher risk of heart problems, or who is undergoing a treatment that can weaken the heart may be referred to the program. Key components of the program include:

  • Assessment of heart issues or history of risk factors before treatment
  • A care plan before and during cancer treatment to proactively address risks from therapies
  • Treatment of heart problems in cancer survivors
  • Ongoing heart-health screening for cancer patients and survivors
  • Imaging and diagnostic services to catch issues early

Regular follow-ups and screenings help your doctor note any changes or risks early so you can begin cancer treatment and also maintain your heart health.

The Center for Cardio-Oncology is another step in UPMC’s commitment to caring for the full spectrum of cancer survivors’ needs. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the UPMC Center for Cardio-Oncology at 1-833-876-2226.

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute ranks among the best in the United States for complete cardiovascular care. U.S. News & World Report lists UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the top hospitals nationally for cardiology and heart surgery. We treat all manners of heart and vein conditions, from the common to the most complex. We are creating new medical devices and cutting-edge treatments that may not be available at other hospitals. We also offer screenings, free clinics, and education events in the community.