Double trouble?

Cancer patients could be dealing with double trouble. Some medications used to treat cancer can actually cause heart disease, but now doctors are working more closely together to make sure patients don’t end up with more problems than they started with.

Abby Jones’ cancer battle led to something she could have never imagined. The 29 year old always tries to look on the bright side, but life hasn’t been so picture perfect lately.

“At 29, I was like, ‘What do I do?'” said Abby. The new mom battled five different cancers in one year. As if that wasn’t enough, she then developed heart problems because of her cancer medications. “You don’t think your heart is going to take effect,” explained Abby. “But those drugs are pretty toxic.”

USF Moffitt Cardio-Oncologist Michael Fradley says 30% of cancer patients end up with heart problems. Abby didn’t feel any symptoms, but patients can experience shortness of breath, chest pains and leg swelling. “It certainly has been increasingly recognized as a substantial problem,” said Dr. Fradley.

Roohi Ismail-Kahn is an Oncologist for the USF Moffitt Cardio Oncology Program, and said, “We can’t just treat cancer and not worry about side effects.”

Dr. Fradley worked with Abby’s oncologist Dr. Roohi Ismail-Kahn. Together they decided to suspend some of her cancer treatment medications while adding cardiac protective medicines. They say the cardio-oncology collaboration is critical for monitoring and treating both diseases.

“When we’re thinking about caring for these patients, we have to think about them as a complete individual,” said Dr. Fradley. “We can’t just think in our own little silos just the heart or just the cancer.”

Abby is now cancer-free and glad her doctors were able to look at the big picture – so now this is the only therapy she needs.

Doctors say some of the cancer therapies that can cause heart issues are herceptin, anthracyclenes and radiation. In some cases, the heart effects might not become known for five to 10 years after cancer therapy.

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