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Cancer Treatments Cause Heart Damage

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More people are surviving cancer and there are more sophisticated technologies in use to beat it, but according to the medical journal, Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, this onslaught of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immune therapy (tying BCG toxins to cancer cells so the immune system destroys them) and surgery may be ending one problem only to cause another.

These cancer treatments can profoundly impact a patient’s cardiovascular function, even becoming a detriment to overall survival. Those lucky enough to survive cancer may in some cases be swapping a cancer death for a death by heart failure.

Now a group of experts at Washington University School of Medicine are looking in depth at the issues surrounding cancer treatment and cardiology in an effort to reduce the risks for patients. The experts would like to discover exactly why cardiac damage occurs after chemotherapy and what they can do about it. They would like to:

• Do research into biomarkers that may identify who will be more at risk of cardiac problems after cancer treatment.
• Give patients a special type of antibiotic to protect their heart.
• Give all cancer patients a cardiologist to care for their heart, in addition to an oncologist.

Dr. Douglas Mann and Dr. Ronald Krone, editors of the paper, said

“The management of heart disease in all its forms in patients with cancer in all its forms presents special challenges to the cardiologist. In the war on cancer, the cardiologist is not in the front lines, directly confronting the enemy, but in the role of support and supply, providing the oncologist the ability to keep the warrior strong enough to defeat the enemy. In fighting the war on cancer, there is, like in any war, unwanted ‘collateral damage.’ There is no ‘silver bullet’ but, in many ways, a refined shotgun, blasting the tumor while pellets hit other vital organs. The bone marrow, liver, and nervous system get their share of hits; but the heart and vascular system are certainly at risk depending on the weapon used, particularly because the vascular system and blood supply are intimately involved in any treatment delivery.

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