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Cardio-Oncology is a collaborative program between heart and cancer specialists.  Providers from these two fields work toward a common goal of helping patients with cardiovascular disease or cardiovascular risk factors successfully complete cancer treatment.  MHVI providers work closely with providers from Minnesota Oncology and other cancer clinics to help prevent, detect, and manage cardiotoxic effects of cancer treatment so that patient can survive not just cancer but heart disease.

Patients with various cancers, e.g. breast, lung, ovarian, or lymphoma often receive chemotherapy and other cancer therapies that can be harmful to the heart.  People with preexisting heart conditions are at increased risk of developing toxicity to their heart muscle from cancer treatment.  By close monitoring of the heart function before, during, and after cancer treatment we can detect heart problems earlier and intervene sooner.

What are potential cardio-toxic effects of cancer treatment?
  • Heart failure or reduced heart function
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Vascular disease
  • Severe high blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Coronary artery disease

These effects can show up during cancer treatment, or even many years after therapies have been completed.

Who is at higher risk for developing cardio-toxicity during cancer treatment?
  • History of heart failure (heart function <55%)
  • Age over 60 or post-menopausal
  • History of coronary artery disease or prior heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • History of prior chemotherapy for another cancer, particularly if you’ve had exposure to anthracycline chemotherapy (such as doxorubicin, epirubicin, CHOP, AC, etc.)
How can we help?

We can help monitor the heart closely while receiving cancer therapies that may harm the heart, such as certain chemotherapies or immune therapies.

An echocardiogram is a test that looks at the overall heart function, the valves, and the health of the heart.  We use as special technique called strain imaging to more closely detect changes in the heart.  We see a change in the “strain” of the heart before we detect an actual decline in heart function.  

>> Read the Ruth’s story.  MHVI’s Cardio-Oncology Clinic worked with cancer specialists to help her, despite having heart failure, complete her cancer treatment and go into remission.  HER+ Fight with Cancer.

Julie Birkholz, RN

Cardio-Oncology Clinic Coordinator
Phone: 763­.236.­9125

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