Cancer treatments can be life-saving. Unfortunately, some of the same treatments that destroy cancer cells also damage heart cells. This side effect, known as cardiotoxicity, puts you at risk for heart problems, such as heart failure, difficult-to-control blood pressure, coronary artery disease, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm).

Heart specialists at the MUSC Health Cardio-Oncology Program work with your cancer doctor to protect your heart before, during, and after cancer treatments. Our goal is to keep your heart healthy and strong while providing the care you need to beat cancer.

Cardio-Oncology Care at the MUSC Health Heart & Vascular Center: Why Choose Us?

When you come to MUSC Health for cardio-oncology care you benefit from:

  • Extensive Treatment Options: As South Carolina’s premier heart center, we offer more treatments for heart failure and arrhythmias (conditions commonly associated with cardiotoxicity) than any other center in the state. We also have novel therapies still in clinical trial and a cardiac rehab program to improve your heart health.
  • Team-Based Approach: We partner with your oncologist or hematologist to prevent and minimize heart damage with little, if any, interruptions to your cancer treatment.
  • Experience: As the state’s only academic medical center, our doctors are committed to advancing the understanding of cardiotoxicity by leading and participating in research and clinical trials. They are also members of the American College of Cardiology’s Cardio-Oncology Section.
  • Convenient Follow-Up Care: Should you require ongoing care, we work with your referring doctor to help you get medical treatment closer to home. We partner with cardiologists across the state and see patients at clinic locations in downtown Charleston, West Ashley, and Conway.

Do You Need Cardio-Oncology Care?

Not everyone who undergoes cancer treatments needs cardio-oncology services. Your doctor may recommend tests to check for heart damage if you have certain risk factors, such as:

  • A family history of heart disease.
  • Known heart problems, such as heart mass or tumor, previous heart attack, arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, or congestive heart failure.
  • Chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, or obesity.
  • Symptoms of heart problems, such as shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, swollen legs, heart palpitations, or chest pain.
  • History of tobacco use.
  • Survivor of childhood cancer.
  • Cancer treatments, including:
    • Chemotherapy drugs, such as anthracyclines and kinase inhibitors.
    • Immune checkpoint inhibitors (immunotherapy).
    • Radiation therapy to the chest.

Diagnosing Cardiotoxicity

We use the most advanced imaging technology and testing procedures to detect early signs of cardiotoxicity.

Our diagnostic services include:

  • Advanced 3-D Echocardiogram with Strain Imaging: This specialized technology analyzes specific segments of your heart, helping to predict damage before it occurs. When possible, we perform a baseline echo before you start cancer treatments with follow-up tests performed at regular intervals to quickly catch potential problems.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan: This nuclear heart scan reveals heart tissue damage, as well as blood flow and supply to your heart.
  • Cardiac MRI: This scan offers better visualization of the heart to help detect early signs of heart damage.
  • Cardiac Biomarkers: We perform blood tests before, during, and after your cancer treatments to identify biomarkers in the blood that could indicate heart damage.

Treating Cardiotoxicity

If our tests suggest that your heart health is at risk, we work with your cancer doctors to get you through cancer therapies while minimizing cardiac issues. Treatment may be as simple as switching to a different chemotherapy drug, adding a heart-protective medication, or altering radiation exposure to your chest.

If you already have heart damage, the experts at MUSC Health’s Heart & Vascular Center are exceptionally skilled at treating all types of heart problems. For many treatments, including heart failure and arrhythmia, we are the state’s leading expert.

Learn more about our Advanced Heart Failure Program and Arrhythmia Treatment Center.