This September, Karen Landis celebrates 15 years of remission after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Although much time has passed since her last chemotherapy and radiation treatment, that former treatment may have caused lasting damage to her heart (known as cardiac toxicity). While chemotherapy and radiation treatments continue to improve, about one-third of cancer patients experience lasting damage to their heart.
Now a patient through the ProMedica Cancer Institute Survivor Center at the Hickman Cancer Center, Landis works with clinicians to strengthen her heart through the cardio-oncology clinic, which offers collaborative treatment from a cardiologist and oncologist. These clinicians prescribe drugs or treatments to help protect the heart during cancer treatment, develop a plan to monitor and improve heart health after cancer treatment and may even adjust cancer treatment to lessen harmful effects to the heart.
Patients of the cardio-oncology clinic may be at any stage of their cancer treatment, or like Landis, may have completed their treatment years ago.
Protecting the heart from the start
Adil Karamali, MD, a ProMedica Physicians cardiologist who treats Landis, says that clinic patients typically have an echocardiogram and blood work. “We thoroughly review their heart health history with them. If their heart health is at risk, we’ll work with the patient’s oncologist and primary care provider to lower their risk,” he explained.
Kenneth Krupp, MD, a ProMedica Physicians oncologist said it’s important to protect the heart from the start. “There are 20 million survivors and that number is growing. A good number of them had cardio-toxic drugs. Not everyone gets in trouble, but some do,” he said.
“There are 20 million survivors and that number is growing. A good number of them had cardio-toxic drugs.
For Landis, the cardio-oncology clinic gives her added assurance and the feeling of truly being cared for. “[At the clinic] they ask ‘How are you?’ ‘Are there any issues?’ When I leave here, I feel like I’ve been wrapped in a warm blanket of compassion and concern,” she shared.
Landis, who also has post-polio syndrome, admits that the word ‘cancer’ is scary, but wants to share hope. “The whole process is scary,” she said. “You just have to believe in your doctor.”