Cardio-oncology team at the clinic in 2019

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, one of the first thoughts of treatment is usually chemotherapy and radiation. While many people understand these treatments can come with severe side effects, like nausea and vomiting, hair loss, and a weakened immune system, they may be surprised to learn about other lesser-known, but very common side effects affecting the heart.

Enter SHN’s Cardio-Oncology Clinic – one of only a few dedicated cardio-oncology clinics in the Greater Toronto Area.

“Working together with the oncology department, we developed the clinic to ensure that it addressed both the cancer and cardiology concerns as a whole,” explained Dr. Kibar Yared, Medical Director.

With SHN’s leading regional cardiac centre; North America’s largest regional, community-based cardiovascular rehab service; extensive cardiac diagnostic services; and specialized oncology program, it’s evident that SHN is exceptionally equipped to support patients experiencing cardiotoxicity.

This term encompasses the many cardiac side effects that may result from chemotherapy, including weakness of the heart muscle, arrhythmia, high blood pressure and chest pain. Certain types of chemotherapy can be more toxic to the heart than others.

Noticing that patients were experiencing variable, non-standard treatment for these side effects, SHN’s cardiology and oncology teams recognized an opportunity to set a new standard for exceptional quality and patient safety. They came together to find a solution to address this gap and deliver exceptional care right here in Scarborough.

Lifesaving agents like anthracyclines and trastuzumab (Herceptin) are used to treat a variety of cancers, especially breast cancer, and patients are surviving longer than ever due to their effectiveness. As a result, many cancer patients are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

“Having this expertise and innovation in our already successful cardiac program adds to the breadth of care that we can provide to patients in Scarborough and across Ontario,” noted Justin Stone, Manager, Cardiology.

Patients who visit the clinic are supported by a team made up of cardiologists, nurses, clinical practice leaders and a telemedicine coordinator for support with VirtualVisits. There is a direct line of communication with the oncologist/hematologist and support staff to ensure decisions regarding patient care are taken as a team, and include the patient.

The clinic is also a useful resource for patients who have pre-identified cardiovascular conditions and are beginning chemotherapy treatment. The clinic works with these patients to identify any potential risks and monitor them throughout their cancer treatment to manage their cardiovascular condition.

“Our ultimate goal was to make sure our patients’ care needs were being met and we were delivering the highest level of care possible as quickly as possible. This enabled our patients to return to their life-saving chemotherapy in the shortest amount of time,” added Dr. Yared.

As SHN continues to invest in the specific health needs of our community, patients and families of the Cardio-Oncology Clinic can now access their health care appointments from wherever is most convenient through a recent expansion of VirtualVisits (telemedicine powered by OTN).

“As physicians, what we want most of all for our patients is comfort and ease of transition through the health care system,” remarked Dr. Yared. “Providing this option for our patients helps to ease worry surrounding travel, transportation and costs, while still providing them with exceptional cancer and cardiac care.”

Interested in learning more about our cardio-oncology clinic?

Check out this podcast episode of Solving Healthcare with Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng and hear from SHN’s own Dr. Yared Kibar, cardiologist and Riyad Akbarali, Exercise Therapist.