Cancer Treatment and the Heart

Feb 26, 2020 | Wendy Hanson | @wendyhanson

Heart stickers

Cancer treatments can have a significant impact on your heart, ranging from weakening of the heart muscle to heart attacks or rhythm problems.

Fortunately, heart disease associated with chemotherapy is rare and not seen with every chemotherapy drug. As new treatments are developed, short-term and long-term side effects, including heart problems, are closely studied.

If your doctor is considering using a chemotherapy drug that may affect your heart, you may need heart function testing before beginning treatment.

During treatment, you may need periodic heart monitoring tests. If you have a pre-existing heart condition, such as cardiomyopathy, your doctor may suggest a different type of chemotherapy.

If you experience significant problems such as unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain or irregular heartbeats during or after chemotherapy, report your symptoms immediately to your health care team.

Radiation treatment can also come with risks. If the area of your body receiving radiation includes your chest (for example for breast cancer or lymphoma), you may have an increased risk of cardiomyopathy, valvular heart disease and heart attack.

The combination of radiation and chemotherapy together can generate a considerably higher risk of heart damage. However, your doctor can take steps to reduce these risks as much as possible.

Mayo Clinic offers a program to address heart problems associated with cancer treatment called cardio-oncology. The Cardio-Oncology Clinic is available to evaluate people prior to cancer treatment and for others who have experienced side effects due their treatment. Talk with your health care provider to determine whether a referral to the clinic would be beneficial addition to your care plan.

Mayo Clinic Minute: When cancer treatment hurts your heart


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