Certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapies, can be toxic to your heart. This treatment side effect is called cardiotoxicity.
Your heart may weaken 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.
Our goal is to prevent and minimize heart damage while you take the needed steps to destroy cancer cells. At AHN, you benefit from:
- Team-based care: 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 cancer treatment, while also preventing heart problems.
- Comprehensive heart services: We offer advanced diagnostic services to detect early signs of cardiotoxicity, as well as a wide array of heart treatments. You may receive care at the AHN Cardio-Oncology Clinic at Allegheny General Hospital, or another AHN hospital or Health + Wellness Pavilion.
- Leaders in cardiac care: Allegheny General Hospital is rated the No. 1 hospital in Western PA⁺ for Medical Excellence in Major Cardiac Surgery, Coronary Bypass Surgery, Liver Transplants, Organ Transplants and Heart Transplants. Learn more about our heart transplant program.
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 treatment help identify damaged cells called biomarkers that may indicate heart damage.
At the AHN Cardiovascular Institute, you have access to a wide range of heart-saving 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