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Cancer Answers is hosted by Dr. Anees Chagpar, Associate Professor of Surgical Oncology and Director of The Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and Dr. Francine Foss, Professor of Medical Oncology. The show features a guest cancer specialist who will share the most recent advances in cancer therapy and respond to listeners questions. Myths, facts and advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment are discussed, with a different focus eachweek. Nationally acclaimed specialists in various types of cancer research, diagnosis, and treatment discuss common misconceptions about the disease and respond to questions from the community.Listeners can submit questions to be answered on the program at canceranswers@yale.edu or by leaving a message at (888) 234-4YCC. As a resource, archived programs from 2006 through the present are available in both audio and written versions on the Yale Cancer Center website.

Cancer Treatments Could Hurt Your Heart

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for cancer survivors. A relatively new scientific field called "cardio-oncology" is working to change that.

Chemotherapy and radiation may save you from cancer, but they can also do a lot of damage to your heart. 

"The risk of developing heart failure is greater when a person receives both chemotherapy and radiation therapy," said Bruce Liang, director of the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn. "On the one hand, we are doing good by treating cancer, but in the same context, we are also creating problems for another important organ, such as the heart."

Credit UConn
Dr. Bruce Liang said heart disease is the leading cause of death for cancer survivors. The new scientific field of "cardio-oncology" is working to change that.

Liang said that cardio-oncology -- that's heart and cancer doctors work collaboratively with a patient -- started gaining momentum at hospitals around the U.S. in the last three years. He predicted that the field will continue to get more important as there are new drugs developed to treat cancer patients.

A lot of those drugs are effective at killing off tumors, but they can also damage heart tissue, and sometimes, that damage can take years to show up.

Cardio-oncologists perform things like MRIs and blood tests to assess an individual's cardiac risk before and after chemo or radiation. "Now, since we know the leading cause of death among cancer survivors is heart disease, we need to be more attuned to that," said Liang. "We need to raise awareness."

Awareness is one of the big challenges facing this new field of science. Going forward, Liang would like to see more research money given to cardio-oncologists, so they can continue to fine-tune their cardiac assessments for all patients in the cancer ward. 

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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