Cancer treatments linked to heart failure

Cancer treatments linked to heart failure

Almost one in four patients having chemotherapy or radiotherapy develop cardiotoxicity, leading to heart failure, often in the years after their treatment has finished, according to scientists at Flinders University in Australia; doctors should inform patients of heart-beneficial diet and exercise programmes.  

What is worse is that patients undergoing cancer treatment have no idea that it might happen. They are rarely appraised of the risks; and the damage might not appear immediately but up to 25 years later in some cases.

Even where patients had experienced heart muscle damage as a result of cancer treatment, the researchers found that only 11 percent of them had been referred to a cardiologist prior to starting chemotherapy, and only 48 percent were referred to a heart failure clinic at the conclusion of their treatment.

Apparently following the European Society for Medical Oncology’s publication of Clinical Practice Guidelines there was an improvement with the percentage of people referred to cardiologists before chemotherapy rising from 0 to 23%, and the percentage of patients who were given a baseline echocardiogram rising from 57 to 77 percent.

Not one of the chemotherapy patients interviewed by the researchers had been informed about their heart health needs.

And although more than half of them said they had started eating healthier diets after cancer diagnosis all were unsure of what that entailed.

The study’s authors recommended that cancer patients’ hearts be monitored throughout their treatment - especially given the toxicity of drugs like Herceptin and anthracyclines. Anthracyclines like doxorubicin, epirubicin, idarubicin, mitoxantrone, mairubicin and daunorubicin and used to treat a host of cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, lung cancer, stomach, uterine, bladder and ovarian cancer.   

The researchers also warned that doctors must make the heart effects of cancer treatments understandable and clear to patients and inform then how to minimize risk, through diet and/or exercise.

Go to: CANCERactive guidelines on Diet and Exercise


  1. Flinders Cardio-toxicity and breast cancer treatments
2019 Research
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