Certain cancer treatments can cause cardiotoxicity, a condition that can weaken heart muscle, raise blood pressure, or cause the heart to beat out of sync, a condition known as arrhythmia. Heart specialists in the cardio-oncology program assess a patient’s heart disease risk and work with the patient’s oncologist to develop a personalized treatment plan. The goal is to minimize or prevent heart-related problems due to cancer treatments.
“This program provides a tremendous benefit to the community. We have such great expertise right here in the Lehigh Valley,” Sundlof said. “People in the region don’t have to travel to New York or Philadelphia for leading-edge care. Cancer patients are going through a lot and traveling long distances for treatment adds to their burden. It’s great we can offer world-class care right here.”
Since its inception, the Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute’s cardio-oncology program has served more than 650 patients and has become a major initiative, according to Sundlof, who also serves as a co-director of the Heart and Vascular Institute’s Women’s Heart Program.
To make it easier to get cardiology help to moderate- or high-risk cancer patients, the program developed a risk assessment tool for the health network’s oncology team. The tool is continually updated to reflect the fast-changing world of cancer treatment. “Cancer care is changing rapidly, almost daily,” Sundlof said.
“There are a lot of things we can do as cardiologists to decrease a patient’s risk for developing a heart problem from cancer treatment. Likewise, we also work closely with cancer patients with existing heart health issues.”