Study aims to uncover how breast cancer treatments impact heart function

RICHMOND, Va. -- Some women who beat breast cancer cannot return to work after treatment because of fatigue.

As a result, the federal government is funding a study to see how cancer treatments affect the heart.

Tammy Carleton frequently gets in a round on the treadmill before work. While she works out, the oxygen supply to her heart is monitored by researchers at VCU Massey Cancer Center.

"It feels like an honor to be part of something this big,” said, Carleton who works at Massey where she administers chemotherapy.

Carleton is taking part in a two-year clinical study called The Upbeat trial where doctors are monitoring the heart function of 850 breast cancer patients -- before, during and after treatment -- from around the nation .

These patients may experience fatigue during treatments and that could lead to cardiovascular problems and disrupting life.

Tammy Carleton

Tammy Carleton

"We don't want her to go through the cancer treatment, have successfully treated the cancer and then seven years later have a heart attack or heart trouble and not be able to participate at all,” Dr. Greg Hundley said.

Hundley, a leading cardio-oncologist, came to VCU Massey Cancer Center in 2018 to run the Pauley Heart Center. This new trial is at the top of his to-do list.

“When we actually want to go and do something, the heart has to respond," Hundley said. "It’s got to pump stronger and beat faster. What if the chemotherapy is administered and is inhibiting that or radiation.”

Dr. Greg Hundley

Dr. Greg Hundley

One of the study's main goals is to find out what's contributing to the fatigue.

"Once we understand what those are and when they develop, then we can develop interventions to come in at that time and prevent the fatigue,” Hundley said.

Carleton is one of about 150 volunteers in the study who do not have breast cancer.

"What the comparator group does it allows us to watch for environmental factors that could be contributing to fatigue,” Hundley said.

Women with breast cancer and without breast cancer are needed for The Upbeat clinical trial, especially African-American women. If you want to participate , call 804-828-5090 or email: MasseyCPC@vcu.edu.

Reba Hollingsworth and Stephanie Rochon

Reba Hollingsworth and Stephanie Rochon

On the 6th of the month, CBS 6 and VCU Massey Cancer Center remind women to contact their buddy to remind them to conduct a monthly breast self-exam. If it is time, you should also schedule an annual clinical breast exam and mammogram, which are key to early detection.

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