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Certain cancer treatments can cause unwanted side effects, including damage to your heart and cardiovascular system.
During cancer treatment, you may be given drugs that help destroy cancer cells, but the normal cells in and around your heart can be also damaged. Anticancer agents can cause low or high blood pressure and, more rarely, an increased risk of blood clots, arrhythmias, heart attack and stroke.
Radiation therapy directed at the chest area may also cause side effects to the heart. Problems may occur years after exposure and include heart disease, stiffening of the heart muscle and damage to the heart valve.
Cardiac toxicity (or cardiotoxicity) is damage to your heart caused by harmful chemicals. It can develop during cancer treatment or years later. Cardiac toxicity can interrupt or alter your cancer treatment and reduce your quality of life. Older people, young children and women are at a greater risk of cardiac toxicity.
Symptoms of cardiac toxicity include:
If you have any of these indications of a heart issue, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can also check for heart issues even if you don’t have any symptoms.
To protect the hearts of cancer patients with a history of heart disease, or those whose treatment poses an increased heart risk, cardio-oncology programs are now being offered in some cancer centers. In these programs, oncologists and cardiologists work closely together to protect patients from cardiovascular complications caused by cancer treatments.
If your cancer treatment puts your heart at risk, your healthcare team may monitor your heart before, during and after treatment. The team may recommend different ways to reduce the risk of heart problems while you are receiving cancer treatment. Some options may include:
If you develop a heart problem after cancer treatment, your healthcare team may recommend medication to help manage it:
Edward-Elmhurst Health offers a Cardio-Oncology program in which your oncologist and a cardiologist work together to protect your heart during cancer treatment. Learn more about our Cardio-Oncology program.
Keeping your heart healthy during cancer treatment
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