Man in a hospital bed

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute are teaming up for an innovative new program to provide cardiovascular care to people throughout their cancer journey. 

The program brings together the region’s premier cancer specialists and leading cardiovascular experts to collaborate for the heart health of cancer patients.  

“Cancer patients have some unique circumstances surrounding cardiovascular care and follow up,” said Charles Reninger, MD, medical director of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “Certain cancer processes and therapies can increase the risk for cardiovascular issues, including heart attack and stroke.” 

Under this unique partnership, cancer patients are seen and managed by their cancer doctor. If a patient is identified as being at risk for cardiovascular disease, or experiences a problem during therapy, they will be sent to a cardiologist. 

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The Link Between Cancer and Cardiovascular Problems 

As cancer patient survival rates increase, their battles aren’t always in remission — they are often faced with other health dangers.

“Over the last couple decades, as cancer treatments have improved, we’ve learned that more and more patients are not dying of cancer, they are actually dying from heart disease,” noted Sunil Kanwal, MD, a cardiologist at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. 

“Through this program, our emphasis is on identifying people at risk earlier and having aggressive interventions to avoid complications,” added Dr. Reninger. “For example, some cancer patients come to us with comorbidities, like obesity or smoking, that significantly increase their risk of cardiovascular issues.” 

When a cancer patient is deemed at risk, the cardiologist works with them to manage their condition by addressing issues like high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity. 

In other situations, some cancer patients may develop cardiovascular problems due to the type of therapy they receive. 

“When this happens, we help them to recover their heart function so that the patient can continue their lifesaving cancer treatment,” Dr. Kanwal said.   

“There is nothing in central Pennsylvania like this,” explained Dr. Reninger. “This is a unique way to identify and then aggressively treat these patients to ensure their long-term health.” 

Even after beating their cancer, Dr. Kanwal noted, patients can have a higher risk of heart disease. “It’s a good idea for cancer patients to see a cardiologist to keep an eye on their heart health,” he said. 

Talk to your oncologist to see if you should see a cardiologist at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. 

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.

About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and Maryland, with more than 200 oncologists. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment.

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