Cancer treatments today have the incredible ability to prolong life for patients, but the initial treatment can come with side effects you should know about, including heart damage.
“Patients may be completely free of cancer and in remission, and the most likely thing that becomes part of their life is the development of heart disease,” Dr. Jean-Bernard Durand, a cardiologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet.Read More
- Low or high blood pressure
- Heart attacks
- Weakening of the heart muscle
Cancer treatment can also lead to coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmia), fluid buildup around the heart and a slow heart rate, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Heart damage from cancer treatments can also include heart failure, presenting a “very valid concern for patients,” Dr. Durand added.
Heart failure is a condition where the heart does not pump blood as well as it should, and it can lower a person’s quality of life.
Symptoms of heart failure include:
- Feeling lightheaded/dizzy
- Difficulty breathing
- Racing heart/palpitations
- Lower limb swelling (specifically in the feet and ankles)
- Need to urinate while resting at night
- Dry, hacking cough
Doctors want to give cancer patients the best quality of life after treatment. So there are methods (like technologies and medication) they use to treat these heart conditions and manage symptoms.
These techniques “can enhance their life, prolong their life, and allow them to have a new quality of life” in the face of these new challenges,” said Dr. Durand.
The treatment approach will depend on the type of heart condition a person has and may, in part, be influenced by what caused the disease.
For example, diuretics are one option for managing the symptoms of heart failure. Often referred to as “water pills,” they help the body get rid of salt (sodium) and water.
When you have heart failure, your heart is not pumping enough blood. As a result, fluid backs up in the body, especially in the lungs and in your legs (a condition called edema). Diuretics can help decrease blood volume, so the heart has less to pump with each beat, which in turn eases your heart’s work.
And a drug called vericiguat (brand name Verquvo) may be helpful for people who have been diagnosed with heart failure and have been hospitalized or need outpatient IV diuretics. The drug works by decreasing the heart’s workload by dilating the blood vessels.
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