Over the years, the healthcare industry has made many positive strides in cancer detection and treatment. That means that more cancer patients are surviving long after their initial diagnoses. While this is great news, it also means that healthcare professionals need to look at the long-term, possibly detrimental effects of cancer treatment.
Cardiologists are beginning to specialize in the field of cardio-oncology, and there are an increasing number of cardiac imaging devices promoting advanced quantification and imaging tools to support the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease within the population of patients undergoing chemotherapy. On the subject of cardio-oncology, the Mayo Clinic writes: “The introduction of more successful anti-cancer treatments has contributed to improved survival. Currently, there are more than 12 million cancer survivors in the United States alone. However, with longer survival, the long-term adverse treatment effects have become increasingly important.
“Virtually all anti-cancer drugs that target tumor cell death may result in collateral injury to other healthy tissues. Bone marrow suppression and gastrointestinal toxicities associated with chemotherapy are well recognized and accepted side effects for the benefits that may accrue from the chemotherapy. ’Much less appreciated, however, are the cardiotoxic effects of cancer treatment,’ says Donald W. Northfelt, M.D., a medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
“Furthermore, radiation therapy without adequate cardiac shielding may result in coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, pericardial injury and myocardial disease from fibrotic changes that occur post-radiation. It is not uncommon for chemotherapy to follow radiation treatment, and in some organs such as the heart, this dual and serial insult can result in a higher likelihood of cardiotoxicity.”1
Advanced cardiovascular ultrasound analysis tools have been found to be useful in discovering discrete changes in the overall function of the heart, unseen by the eye or other imaging methods. The type or amount of chemotherapy or post-radiation treatments can then be modified to mitigate the potential negative effects of cancer treatment.
Where does a Cardiovascular IT solution fit in to the new world of cardio-oncology? A CVIT system with advanced analysis capabilities like Strain and Strain Rate Imaging for echocardiography play a key role in managing cancer patients. The ability to view diagnostic quality images remotely from web-enabled devices and provide a customized report is paramount when considering the collaboration needed between cardiologist and oncologist in order to make treatment and patient management decisions. It’s time to include the role of Cardiovascular IT in the conversation when discussing new and emerging methods for the diagnosis, treatment, and management of cardiovascular disease.