Onco-Cardiology Program

UI Health is committed to caring for patients in every stage of cancer treatment who are at risk for, develop, or have established cardiovascular disease. The Onco-Cardiology Program at UI Health provides comprehensive, personalized cardiac care to patients with cancer and places an emphasis on the proper management of cardiovascular disease and cardiotoxicities that can result from cancer treatments. Our program is supported by team of doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals who are dedicated to the cardiovascular health of patients before, during, and after they have received cancer treatment.

Cardiotoxicities and Cardiovascular Disease

Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may cause lasting damage to the heart, especially if patients already have a high risk for heart disease. Existing cardiovascular conditions can also be made worse by cancer treatments or result in the development of new conditions such as cardiomyopathy and heart failure.

Damage to the heart caused by harmful chemicals from chemotherapy and substances in other medications is called cardiotoxicity. Several types of drugs — including chemotherapies such as anthracyclines and monoclonal antibodies including trastuzumab — have been linked to the development of cardiotoxicities in patients undergoing cancer treatment.

While there is a wider knowledge base for older cancer medications, newer therapies have also been linked to cardiotoxicities. The Onco-Cardiology Program at UI Health is equipped to search for warning signs and precursors to the development of cardiotoxicities from multiple types of cancer therapy.

Cardiotoxicities may cause cardiovascular conditions, such as:

  • Arrhythmia: A disruption of electrical impulses in the heart that can lead to abnormal heartbeat and ineffective blood pumping.
  • Cardiomyopathy: A disease of the heart that causes it to become larger, thicker or rigid. Severe cases of cardiomyopathy can also cause scar tissue to build up in the heart.
  • Cardiomyopathy makes the heart weaker and also interferes with the heartbeat, which can lead to heart failure, arrhythmias or heart valve problems.
  • Coronary heart disease: A disease that narrows and hardens the arteries that supply blood to heart muscles and is often caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries.
  • Heart failure: The inability of the heart to properly pump blood throughout the body.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure within blood vessels that can cause further heart problems.
  • Valvular diseases: A group of heart conditions that interferes with the four valves of the heart, which can cause blood to travel in the wrong direction or even block blood flow.

Screening for Cardiovascular Disease and Cardiotoxicities

The Onco-Cardiology Program aims to help patients with cancer avoid cardiotoxicity and cardiovascular risk during cancer treatment. In order to prevent and manage these risks, the program uses echocardiograms and other screenings to test for subtle changes in the heart during treatment, such as deformations in the muscular layer of the heart called the myocardium or the presence of troponin proteins in the blood, which are released when the heart is damaged.

Screenings include:

  • Echocardiograms: Tests that use ultrasound technology to create pictures of the heart. A form of echocardiogram called speckle-tracking echocardiogram is often used to perform myocardial strain analyses to assess changes in the myocardium of the heart.
  • Troponin tests: These tests use a blood sample from the patient to determine if troponin protein levels in the blood are raised. Raised troponin levels indicate that the heart has been damaged.

These Screenings can be Performed:

  • Prior to cancer treatment to determine if a patient has a high risk for cardiovascular disease or is exhibiting signs of existing cardiovascular disease before therapy begins
  • Throughout the course of cancer treatment to determine if therapy is causing injury to the heart
  • After cancer treatment to ensure that cardiovascular disease does not develop or is properly managed and treated as early as possible in the months and years following cancer therapy

Cardiotoxicity Prevention and Management

Based on a patient's regular screenings the Onco-Cardiology Program can provide treatments and recommendations to both prevent and manage cardiovascular diseases and cardiotoxicities.

If patients have pre-existing cardiovascular conditions before beginning cancer therapy, our program can provide evaluations and medical care to enhance their heart function before undergoing cancer-related procedures. The Onco-Cardiology Program can also provide treatment during cancer therapy to manage cardiotoxicities or cardiovascular disease.

Our goals are to make sure patients have a limited chance of developing cardiovascular disease, remain protected from cardiovascular disease during cancer therapy, and recover quickly from any cardiovascular disease that develops so that they can continue their cancer therapy unimpeded.

A few treatment options we provide that help us achieve our goals include:

  • Ace inhibitors: Medication that causes the body to produce less angiotensin, a hormone responsible for the narrowing of arteries. This medication can help treat hypertension and heart failure.
  • Beta blockers: Medication that slows heartbeat and can be used to treat arrhythmias and lower blood pressure.

Preventive care may include lifestyle changes to address existing heart conditions. The Onco-Cardiology Program also can identify which cancer treatments would be particularly risky for patients and provide recommendations for less dangerous options.

Follow-up Onco-Cardiology Care
Generally, patients who undergo chemotherapy carry risk for cardiotoxicities for at least six months to a year after completing treatment. The Onco-Cardiology Program continues to screen and monitor patients during this time to make sure any developing heart complications are found quickly so that treatment and management can begin early, when they are more effective.

In some cases, cardiotoxicities carry a non-symptomatic window of time where the heart can experience changes without causing noticeable symptoms in patients. Diagnosing heart damage during this window greatly improves patient outcomes, which makes early diagnosis and treatment all the more important.

In addition to addressing cardiovascular damage that can specifically arises due to cancer therapies, we also make sure to examine patients for signs of other symptoms and conditions that can develop from the use of adjuvant treatments such as prophylactic antibiotics. We also consider normal risk factors for coronary or cardiac disease that are not related to cancer diagnoses. We work closely with patients to understand their histories and situations to provide personalized care that covers all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Patients who already have completed cancer therapy may have cardiovascular diseases that require treatment and can take advantage of the services offered by the Heart Failure Program, which include medications and assistive devices to help manage symptoms.

Contact Us

Our Location
Outpatient Care Center, Suite 3C
1801 W. Taylor St.
Chicago, IL 60612  

For more information about the Onco-Cardiology Program or to make an appointment, please request an appointment online or call 312.996.6480.