Cancer Treatment Complications And Collateral Damage

by Pamela Fayerman ,  Vancouver Sun - Medicine Matters | 2012-08-17

Such drugs have been used to save lives for the past 50 years and are still commonly given to breast cancer patients. But they’re known to potentially wreak havoc on the heart, resulting in scarring, abnormal contractions or other heart failure symptoms, especially when taken at top doses.

The Canadian Cancer Society is funding the first-of-its-kind, $172,000 B.C. study in 78 breast cancer patients.

Dr. Sean Virani, the study co-leader and director of heart failure at Vancouver General Hospital, said heart disease is a major cause of illness and death in cancer survivors.

“I have an interest in this group of patients so we sat down with experts at the BC Cancer Agency to identify the gaps in care, to figure out how to do things better,” said Virani, whose impressive medical training includes post-doc programs at Stanford and Columbia universities.

“We want to identify patients and their problems earlier, and so we set up a system that allows them to get expedited referrals to a new clinic at VGH, and to diagnostic testing.”

Cancer patients who have experienced complications from treatment, those who need ongoing monitoring and those who already have cardiovascular disease at the time of their cancer diagnosis, can access the Cardiovascular-Oncology Clinic at VGH. It  has a $1-million operating budget over three years, for which VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation is now fundraising.


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