The latest research has made a startling revelation about the link between cancer and heart health. The research has concluded that cancer damages not just the primarily affected organ and the organs to which it has spread; but also the heart. Rajdeep Khattar, the lead researcher of the study conducted at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London, said that these findings prove that the functions of the heart may be affected not just due to the chemotherapy drugs used for cancer treatment, but also due to the cancer itself.
More research and clinical data are needed to further prove the link between cancer and heart health. This finding is expected to change the way the patients with cancer are cared for or treated in the future, especially with regard to maintaining their heart functions. The study was presented at the EuroEcho-Imaging conference in Seville.
Researchers said that with closer monitoring to assess the functions of the heart and timely treatment to minimize the damage to the heart tissues during and after the cancer treatment, the survival rate of the patients can be improved significantly and the mortality rates associated with a deteriorating heart health can also be controlled.
It is known that cancer treatment is a double-edged sword. Though chemotherapy and radiation therapy are increasing the chances of survival of cancer patients, these treatments also cause serious cardiovascular disorders.
Radiation therapy is known to increase the risk for cardiac failure and arrhythmias. The chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment can damage the heart and the blood vessels. They can also cause clotting and obstruction in the blood vessels of the heart thereby increasing the risk of heart attacks.
“Hence, it is extremely important to monitor and control the extent of cardiac toxicity during chemotherapy treatment,” said Dr. Mandeep R. Mehra, the professor at Harvard Medical School.
The latest findings that the cancer itself can pose a risk for the heart health has further increased the need for such a close monitoring.
This calls for an urgent need for the cardiologists and the cancer specialists to step up the heart-protection strategies. This has resulted in the emergence of a new specialty, Cardio-oncology, to fill the gap. It involves combining the knowledge of cancer and heart health with an aim to protect the heart of the cancer patients. It is particularly important for the patients who are at a higher risk for heart diseases or already suffer from one.
In order to begin the treatment before any damage occurs to the heart, cancer patients should be followed up with appropriate screening tests. Currently, the researchers are assessing the effectiveness of electrocardiography, echocardiography and certain biomarkers in identifying the potential damage to the heart in cancer patients.
This is expected to help in a better evaluation of the heart functions of cancer patients and allow for a timely intervention before the damage becomes significant enough to cause life-threatening consequences.
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