Cancer and the Heart
This is a very sobering piece from Harvard Health Publications. We have known for a long time that certain cancer treatments may damage the heart. We have also been clear that the benefit outweighs the risk. Left untreated or treated less than optimally, cancer likely will kill us. Worrying about possible cardiac problems in the distant future is not pleasant, but has always seemed the better choice. It IS still almost always the better choice, but many of the newer targeted cancer therapies seem to be causing more and faster heart problems. It seems ironic that the targeted therapies, those that can kill just the cancer cells with less collatteral damage to healthy cells, bring these problems.
This is certainly not intended to panic you or really to impact any treatment decisions that are carefully made. It is, however, always smart to be informed.
Here is the beginning and then a link:
Cancer treatments may harm the heart
Doctors strive to prevent the cure for one disease from causing another.
Cancer treatment can be the proverbial double-edged sword. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are increasing the number of people who survive cancer. However, they can also cause these same people to develop cardiovascular disease.
Radiation therapy can cause heart attack, heart failure, and arrhythmias. Traditional and novel chemotherapy agents can damage the heart or peripheral blood vessels, or cause problems with clotting or blood lipids.
Some serious cardiovascular effects occur while the chemotherapy is being given; others appear long after cancer has become a distant memory.
"Almost every chemotherapy drug has some effect on the cardiovascular system, and most are not good. But with the new anticancer agents, an increasing amount of cardiac toxicity is being observed," says Dr.Mandeep R. Mehra, executive director of the Center for Advanced Heart Disease at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School.
The list of undesirable effects caused by a growing inventory of antitumor agents has overwhelmed the ability of cardiologists and medical oncologists to keep pace with heart-protection strategies. As a result, a new specialty has emerged to fill the gap. Cardio-oncology is a partnership of cardiologists and oncologists who combine their knowledge to help protect the hearts of people undergoing cancer treatment. "Being followed by a highly specialized cardiologist can benefit most people with cancer, but it is particularly important for someone who is at risk for heart disease or who already has heart disease," says Dr. Mehra.