Cancer care effects on your heart
When a patient receives a cancer diagnosis, typically the first conversation with an oncologist is a treatment plan for survival. Now with better cancer treatments, more cancer patients are surviving longer, and ongoing research shows that typical cancer treatments may adversely affect the heart.
Dr. Thomas Leskovac, a cardiologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., shares that some of the new anti-cancer drugs, so effective at managing tumors, can also cause cardiac side effects.
“If your physician is considering a chemotherapy drug that may affect your heart, you may undergo heart function testing before starting treatment,” Dr. Leskovac says. “During your treatment, periodic heart monitoring will occur, and if you have a pre-existing heart condition, your physician might suggest a different type of cancer treatment.”
Damage to the heart muscle is one of the most devastating cardiac complications of cancer treatment and can arise during or shortly after treatment, or even several years later. Another heart health issue from typical cancer drugs is that they can induce a very sudden and dramatic rise in blood pressure.
Dr. Leskovac explains how a cardiologist typically works with a patient’s oncologist to manage hypertension while undergoing treatment.
“Growing awareness about cardiovascular side effects of anti-cancer drugs, plus the fact that cancer patients are now living longer has really brought this issue to the forefront,” Dr. Leskovac says. “Physicians know to carefully monitor for heart problems and will adjust treatment if heart problems start to develop. Our hope is that a cancer patient doesn’t eventually become a cardiac patient, but with proper management we can get a patient back to their normal life again.”
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