(GAINESVILLE, Ga.) – Anyone who’s been through cancer treatment knows there are side effects that often go along with the powerful medicines used to treat the deadly disease. As advances in cancer therapies are enabling cancer patients to live longer, experts have discovered there is sometimes a link between cancer treatment and potential heart disease. That’s why Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC), Georgia’s #1 Heart Hospital for 12 years in a row, recently assembled a multi-disciplinary team to provide specialized heart care to patients with cancer before, during and after treatment.
“The goal of our cardio-oncology program is to help patients beat cancer while maintaining a healthy heart,” said Abhishek Gaur, MD, cardiologist and medical director of echocardiography at NGMC. “We combine state-of-the-art cardiac imaging with best practices for early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of heart problems associated with cancer therapy to improve the quality of life for cancer survivors.”
Dr. Gaur said that the cardiologists in the cardio-oncology program collaborate with oncologists, radiologists and other specialists to gather information on the patient’s heart health before cancer treatment begins. This arms patients with the information they need to help them choose the best cancer treatment options for them based on the condition of their hearts and their individual risk for heart disease. The physicians also develop methods for shielding the heart from damage during treatment, monitor the heart for signs the muscle is weakening, and help patients control their risk factors for heart disease after cancer therapy is complete.
“Cancer therapies are critical to destroying cancer cells, but some of those therapies can also produce toxins that decrease heart function or cause heart damage in the long run,” said Dr. Gaur. “The cardio-oncology program at NGMC is designed to give cancer patients the added confidence of knowing that as cancer cells are being destroyed, there are safeguards in place to protect their hearts.”
The cardio-oncology physicians from The Heart Center of NGMC work closely with NGMC’s cardiac imaging and radiation oncology departments, Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic’s oncology department and The Longstreet Clinic Cancer Clinic. They evaluate patients to determine their risk for developing heart disease, as well as cardio-toxicity from cancer treatment. The cardio-oncology team works collaboratively to coordinate care and long-term follow-up.
Patients who want to learn more about the cardio-oncology program can schedule an appointment with a cardiologist at The Heart Center of NGMC by calling 770-534-2020 or visiting heartngmc.org/appointment.