Treatment and Your Heart
It seems rather appropriate to have written yesterday and the brain and today about the heart. Concerns about cardiac damage from breast cancer treatment are also a fairly recent issue--again, when most women died sooner, it didn't much matter. Now, blessedly, many of us go on to live normal and long lives, so it matters a lot. Cardiac damange can happen in two general ways from breast cancer treatment: radiation to the left breast can damage the heart (they try hard to exclude the heart from the radiation field), and several drugs--including herceptin, avastin, and adriamycin--can also be damaging. Most women who receive one of these drugs never have any clinical manifestation of trouble so, even if there were some damage, it was small. This is an article from Harvard Health Publications about this. Per usual, I give you the beginning and then a link:
Protecting the heart from cancer therapy
Battling cancer can have long-term effects on the heart.
Treating cancer isn't yet a precise science. Although doctors are getting better at targeting tumors, there's still no magic bullet that homes in on cancer cells and destroys them without risking collateral damage to other parts of the body. The outward signs of off-target destruction include classic side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy such as hair loss, nausea, and fatigue. But there can be silent inner damage, too, sometimes to the heart and arteries. These injuries can appear immediately during therapy; other times they don't surface for years.
"Important advances in our ability to fight cancer over the last few decades have translated into improved survival," says Dr. Erica L. Mayer, an oncologist at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "But we are also learning that many of these lifesaving therapies have the potential to affect the heart and other parts of the body."
Once relegated to the back burner, the late effects of cancer care are gradually getting more attention. One turning point was the publication in 2005 of From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition. This influential report from the Institute of Medicine put a spotlight on the disjointed care often received by the 12 million-plus cancer survivors in the United States after their cancer treatment has ended.
The report has led to greater awareness by cancer specialists of the long-term physical, medical, and psychological needs of cancer survivors. One important item that's still in development: evidence-based strategies for the best way to monitor cancer survivors for late effects of cancer therapy.