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Effect of Cancer Treatments on the Heart


The dreaded disease, cancer, is one of the leading causes of death in the world. It not just affects our body physically, but also takes a toll on our mental health. As such, we look for the best doctors in the field for proper guidance regarding the appropriate treatments. But do these treatments have any side effects on the body, or more specifically the heart? The answer is yes.

Some of the best oncologists/cancer doctors in Mohali, Punjab at Ivy Hospital brings forth a brief overview of cancer and the cardiac side effects of its treatments.

When some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and start spreading to other parts of the body, it is termed cancer. This daunting disease can set up camp anywhere in the body. Normally, cells grow and multiply into new cells. When they grow old or damaged, they die and are replaced by new cells.

Cancer occurs when these damaged or abnormal cells start multiplying instead of dying. They may form tumors that could be cancerous. These cancerous tumors invade nearby tissues and travel to other parts of the body to create new tumours, a process called metastasis. Except for benign tumours, they do not spread to the nearby tissues. When removed, benign tumours do not grow back whereas cancerous tumours often do.

Various cancers have various types of treatments chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy etc.

Heart damage can be the result of chemotherapy or even radiation therapy. Patients often survive one disease, cancer, only to suffer from another i.e. cardiac side effects. It is not just heart failure that is the side effect, but also stroke due to high blood pressure.

Damage from chemo and radiation

In chemotherapy, anthracyclines are often used which weaken the heart muscle through a buildup of calcium and other chemical reactions that release harmful free radicals. This causes side effects like cardiomyopathy. Chemotherapy can also cause problems like clotting. These may occur while chemo is in process or even after cancer has long gone.

Radiation used for breast or lung cancer can result in thickening of the blood vessels and heart valves along with inflammation and artery blockages. It can lead to heart failure, heart attack, and arrhythmias. Such heart problems from radiation can affect younger people as well.

Cardio-oncology

The field investigating the treatment-related cardiac side effects is referred to as cardio-oncology. It studies the cardiac side effects related to various cancer treatments and their combinations. Lately, immunotherapies have become the centre of attention with specific cardiac side effects occurring during treatments. One study showed that some patients who were treated with immunotherapy drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitor also developed inflammation of the heart muscle called myocarditis. Half of those patients died because of it.

Various studies are being conducted on myocarditis from checkpoint inhibitors, but not enough attention is being given to the other forms of cardiovascular toxicities caused by cancer drugs. Not enough information is imparted to the patients about the possible side effects that could occur from the treatments they’re being given. Doctors and patients both, need to be fully aware of the cardiac side effects for which cancer drug they’re being advised for treatment.

Breast cancer and cardiac side effects

Women seem to be at the greatest risk of cardiac side effects, especially those with breast cancer. HER2-positive subtype patients who get targeted therapies have a 30% chance of heart failure during the treatment itself.

Many older survivors of breast cancer have a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than from cancer. The problem is that potential cardiac and vascular risk factors are not given enough attention. When a woman is treated for breast cancer, her adherence to other health condition treatments such as for diabetes, cholesterol etc. decreases. It’s a big challenge for oncologists and cardiologists to tackle the double risk of cancer and heart diseases in cancer survivors.

The aim of all the best cancer specialists in Mohali, Punjab, is to manage both the risks and help people live long healthy lives. Cardiotoxicities are fast becoming a major concern, which raises the need for awareness amongst people. Everybody, the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare teams have to engage in creating awareness of the importance of cardiovascular health in cancer survivors. This is especially important for patients and survivors.

Ivy Hospital keeps its patients fully aware of the disease they have, along with the possible treatments and their side effects as well. After all, it is their body and they have the right to know every scenario before they decide to opt for treatments. It is not for nothing that Ivy is known as the best hospital in Punjab for cancer. If you have any troubles or are looking for a trusted opinion, visit Ivy Hospital and book an appointment with our specialist doctors.