Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can be lifesaving when you have cancer. Unfortunately, these treatments can potentially damage your heart. At the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cardiovascular Institute, our heart specialists partner with your oncologist to protect your heart while you undergo cancer treatments.

What is cardiotoxicity?

Certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapies, can be toxic to your heart. This treatment side effect is called cardiotoxicity.

Cardiotoxicity symptoms

Your heart may weaken (heart failure) or beat out of rhythm (a condition known as arrhythmia). You also may experience high blood pressure, or hypertension, a condition that increases your risk of stroke and heart attack. You may continue to be at risk for these problems even after you’re finished with cancer treatments.

A few therapies associated with cardiotoxicity include:

  • Adriamycin/Doxorubicin and Cyclophosphamide, commonly used to treat breast cancers and lymphomas, can cause congestive heart failure.
  • Paclitaxel can cause a slow heart rate or bradycardia.
  • Immunotherapies can cause myocarditis or arrhythmias.
  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitors can elevate your blood pressure or cause arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation.
  • HER-2 antagonists commonly used in breast cancer treatment can cause congestive heart failure.
  • Radiation therapies, especially if focused on the left chest, can increase future cardiovascular risk through coronary artery disease and valve disease. 

Cardio-oncology services at AHN: Why choose us?

Our goal is to prevent and minimize heart damage while you continue the best treatment for cancer. Cardiologists at the Cardio-Oncology Clinic manage patients before, during, or after cancer therapy, including:

  • Patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors who have a high risk of heart disease.
  • Patients with existing heart disease.
  • Patients who develop heart disease or heart complications after cancer therapy.

At AHN, you benefit from:

Team-based care and cardiotoxicity treatment

Our heart specialists coordinate care with experts from the AHN Cancer Institute. Together, we develop a treatment plan to ensure that you receive the optimum benefits from your cardiotoxicity treatment, while also preventing heart problems. As new cancer treatments come about, our cardio-oncologists evaluate and manage the cardiovascular risks that may come along.

Comprehensive heart services

We offer advanced diagnostic services and testing to detect early signs of cardiotoxicity as well as treatment that is specific to the patient. You may receive care at the AHN Cardio-Oncology Clinic at Allegheny General Hospital, Saint Vincent Hospital, or Wexford Health + Wellness Pavilion.

Leaders in cardiac care

Allegheny General Hospital is rated the No. 1 hospital in Southwestern PA for Medical Excellence in Major Cardiac Surgery, Coronary Bypass Surgery, and Interventional Coronary Care.*

Diagnosing cardiotoxicity: testing and screening

We use the latest technology to detect early signs of heart problems, including:

Advanced echocardiogram (echo) with strain imaging

This test helps predict heart damage by checking for shortening, lengthening, or thickening of heart muscle. Our physicians perform baseline echos at the start of cancer treatments and compare results to follow-up tests to quickly detect problems.

Multigated acquisition scan (MUGA)

This test uses a specialized camera and an injectable radioactive tracer to evaluate your heart’s pumping action.

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

This noninvasive test relies on radiofrequency waves and magnets to create detailed 3D still images and real-time videos of your heart and circulatory system. Learn more about cardiovascular imaging.

Cardiac biomarkers

Blood tests taken throughout your cardiotoxicity treatment help identify damaged cells called biomarkers that may indicate heart damage.

Treating cardiotoxicity

At the AHN Cardiovascular Institute, you have access to a wide range of heart-saving cardiotoxicity treatments. To prevent or stop cardiotoxicity, your physician may recommend:

  • Changing chemotherapy medications.
  • Adding a heart-protective medication.
  • Altering radiation exposure to the chest.
  • Treating arrhythmias.
  • Managing symptoms of heart failure.

Contact us

Call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 or request an appointment with AHN cardiovascular services.


Source: 2022 CareChex® by Quantros. The Southwestern PA region is the Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV (Combined Statistical Area), excluding Greene and Lawrence County