If you have cancer, you might not be thinking about your heart. But it’s good to be aware that certain cancer treatments can harm the heart and blood vessels. This includes chemotherapy, the effects of which depend partly on the dose and frequency of the drug. Increasing age and preexisting cardiac disease also place you at greater risk. Radiation therapy to the neck or chest can also lead to damaging of the heart or blood vessels.
Heart and blood vessel damage due to chemotherapy or radiation may include the development of abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, heart attack and high blood pressure. Heart effects may develop during treatment or months or years later.
Cardio-oncologists are doctors who have expertise in monitoring and treating potential heart effects of cancer treatment. They work closely with oncologists to help protect the heart. If you are being treated for cancer, talk with your oncologist about seeing a cardio-oncologist. If you’ve been treated for cancer in the past, ask your doctor about follow-up to monitor the health of your heart.