I need a cardiologist … now what?

U-M Call Center professionals make the process smooth

CVC_Call_Center_004 blog

The U-M Call Center team (from left): Cheryl Palmer, Sandy Coffey, Andrea Navarre and Ashley Chang.

Your primary physician just recommended you see a cardiologist for a suspected heart condition. So where do you go from here?

If you decide you’d like to see a University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center cardiologist, the process is straightforward, beginning with a call to one of our Call Center professionals.

Call Center professionals are here to help guide you through the process of identifying the right cardiologist.

Getting started

“We start by gathering as much information from the caller as possible,” says Andrea Navarre. This includes a diagnosis (if one was given by the primary doctor) and a description of any symptoms the person is experiencing. “We realize that finding the right doctor can be overwhelming. That’s why we’re here to provide guidance and to point each caller to a cardiologist who aligns with his or her specific diagnosis or needs.” Continue reading

Rx for childhood sarcoma survivors: A lifetime of surveillance and screening

sarcoma survivorship

Laurence Baker, D.O. and Monika Leja, M.D. have established the first Sarcoma Survivorship Clinic. It includes pediatric and adult sarcoma experts across all medical disciplines.

A generation ago, despite aggressive surgery that included radical amputation, newly diagnosed patients with a bone or soft tissue sarcoma often died of cancer. Today the vast majority of these patients are cured. But for many teens and young adults who were successfully treated for sarcoma, the future holds uncertainty about achieving or maintaining good health.

Survivors face unique problems and psychosocial challenges related to sarcoma surgery, radiation and chemotherapy that have a major impact on long-term health. Many have a reduced life expectancy.

Heart disease in a 30-year-old is rare; heart disease in a 30-year-old sarcoma survivor is not. In fact, heart disease is the main issue facing sarcoma survivors – nearly a third will develop a cardiac issue after treatment.

Other potential conditions include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Lipid disorders
  • Kidney failure
  • Anxiety, depression and other mental health problems
  • Sarcoma recurrence
  • Secondary cancer(s)

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The heart of the matter: cancer and heart health

cancer and heart healthJune is the month we celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day. People everywhere come together to celebrate and honor those living with a history of cancer. The number of cancer survivors has increased to nearly 12 million. Survivorship can include many issues: follow-up care, coping with fear of recurrence, going back to work, and managing long-term side effects, including the connection between cancer and heart health after treatment is done.

Heart or cardiovascular issues after cancer treatment is one side effect that can occur with treatments such as radiation to the Continue reading

Treating breast cancer, saving the heart

Cardio-oncologists help keep hearts healthy during and after cancer treatment

My work at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center focuses on preventing and minimizing heart damage that can be caused by cancer treatment. It’s a risk faced by more than 2 million breast cancer survivors who have had either chemotherapy or radiation.

Dr. Elina Yamada is a member of the cardio-oncology team at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Elina Yamada is a member of the cardio-oncology team at the University of Michigan.

I recently had the chance to talk to a group at Gilda’s Club of Metro Detroit, a community that provides emotional and social support for adults, teens and children living with any kind of cancer, and in October they turned their attention to breast cancer.

Here are some of the common questions I hear from breast cancer survivors:

What’s my risk?   – Various cancer treatments can interact with the heart. Chemotherapy drugs, such as anthracyclines, designed to kill cancer cells can also harm heart muscle cells, causing a condition called cardiotoxicity. The risk can be low or high depending on the drug. Radiation therapy to the chest can lead to thickening or scarring of heart structures, such as the valves or pericardium (membrane surrounding the heart), and also affect the heart vessels, causing heart attacks. This could impact left-side breast cancer patients.

What kind of heart problems I can develop? Heart problems may develop during, or even years after cancer treatment. Cardiotoxicity can cause heart failure, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, slow heart rate, or fluid around the heart. Radiation can cause heart valve disease, heart attacks, and thickening of the lining around the heart.

Is there anything I can do to prevent them? If you have cancer and want to avoid heart problems in the future, I recommend:

  • low-cholesterol diet to avoid developing blockages in the heart vessels
  • low-salt diet to avoid developing high blood pressure
  • Get daily exercises, such as walking at least 15 to 30 minutes, as tolerated
  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Maintain healthy weight to avoid obesity and diabetes which increase your cardiac risks

What symptoms should I worry about?  Symptoms caused by cardiotoxity can be common to the ones caused by cancer itself or treatment, such as fatigue, shortness of breath and leg swelling. In general, patients should tell their doctor if they have shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, fluid retention in the legs, distension of the stomach, dizziness or fainting. The Cardiologist should be able to examine you and run tests to determine if they are caused by heart problems or not.

Can I wait to treat my heart problems? Beating cancer is the first priority for women with breast cancer. Preventing and treating heart problems from cancer treatment can be coordinated with your Oncologist, so that you can conclude your cancer treatment. The goal of our Program is to ensure that breast cancer survivors have a healthy heart to enjoy the rest of their lives.


 

Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe Cardio-Oncology Program at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center treats patients with cardiac tumors and collaborates with cancer specialists to prevent and minimize heart damage caused by chemotherapy and radiation.

Maire Kent’s journey ends, inspires work on cardiac sarcomas

This summer a triumphant Maire Kent finished a Stomp Out Sarcoma race at a Dexter park with her University of Michigan cardio-oncologist Dr. Monika Leja pushing her across the finish line.

Dr. Leja and Maire

Dr. Monica Leja with Maire Kent in July at Hudson Mills park.

Their friendship started when Maire’s cancer fight began in November 2012 as doctors linked the young woman’s flu-like symptoms to cardiac sarcoma. She had a decision to make – let the raging tumor in her heart take her life in the next few short weeks, or wage an all-out fight.

Anyone who knew Maire, a United States Army Private First Class, would know that she was going to fight, and fight she did for the next 11 months. Her journey recently came to an end with friends and family saying their final farewells today. Maire was 24.

Maire’s cancer journey has been documented by an Emmy-winning producer for the documentary, “Embrace of Dying,” which will be released next year. The special film will celebrate her life and bring attention to the newly created Maire Kent Memorial Fund for Cardiac Tumor Research at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

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Heart-healthy nutrition for cancer survivors

Chemo drugs can cause heart issues

plate of healthy food

Cancer treatment can affect the heart, so heart-healthy eating is especially important for cancer patients.

Cancer patients may develop heart-related issues as a result of chemotherapy or radiation. Common health concerns include heart failure, arrhythmias, blood clots, high blood pressure and myocardial ischemia (lack of blood flow to the heart muscle), which can lead to a heart attack.

Known as cardiotoxicity, the condition can show up during cancer treatment or even years after treatment for cancer. Studies have shown that up to one-third of cancer patients who receive chemotherapy drugs such as trastuzumab (Herceptin) and anthracyclines will develop cardiotoxicity.

With a goal of minimizing heart damage caused by these treatments, the University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center recently launched Michigan’s first Cardio-Oncology Program. The program is one of only a handful around the world with scientists and physicians working together to address the effects of cancer treatment on the heart.

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