Living Well: State’s first Cardio-Oncology clinic helps cancer patients

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.– The state now has its first and only Cardio-Oncology Clinic. It focuses on helping cancer patients prevent and manage potential cardiovascular complications. As cancer therapy improves, Dr. Ramey Marshell says more patients are surviving.

“With that have come some unintended consequences of that cancer treatment causing toxic effects to the heart,” says Ramey Marshell, Baptist Health MD.

Toxic effects such as Congestive Heart Failure, heart rhythm problems, and Coronary Artery Disease.

“It really can impact almost any cancer and amongst almost any kind of treatment used for cancer,” says Dr. Marshell.

Laura Smith, 57, was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago. She says chemotherapy made her feel tired and lose her appetite, but didn’t realize it was also taking a toll on her heart.

“This is a side-effect of several of the drugs and it’s just unfortunate that I’m, I think it’s a very low percentage that go through what I’m going through,” says Laura Smith, Breast Cancer Patient.

They stopped immunotherapies to focus on her heart, which was functioning below normal levels. She’s able to receive care from two specialists at the Arkansas Cardiolgoy and Baptist Health Heart Institute, which is the state’s first and only Cardio-Oncology Clinic.

“I’m a Cardiologist but have specialized training in cardio-oncology so I have some familiarity with cancer treatment and the effects of the different treatment,” says Dr. Marshell.

Dr. Marshell, alongside Dr. Stephen Greer, aim to help patients like Smith receive the best cancer therapy, while minimizing potential adverse effects on the hear.

“When I went back on the infusions after seeing Dr. Marshell, the heart was hurt again. This time it enlarged and had a leak in a valve,” says Smith.

Smith believes it could take about a year for her heart to heal. From pre-treatment screening to personalized monitoring plans, Dr. Marshell says they’re supporting patients throughout the course of treatment and beyond.

“As far as the cancer treatments, we’re going to set the bar higher for where my heart functions, before they start that back,” says Smith.

Dr. Marshell says if any state needs this kind of clinic, it’s Arkansas because of the presence of Cardiovascular Disease in the state.

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