Certain cancer treatments can damage the heart and the cardiovascular system. Side effects, including high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, and heart failure can be caused or exacerbated by chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as by newer forms of cancer treatment, such as targeted therapies and immunotherapies.
Some cardiovascular side effects do not present until many years after the patient's treatment has ended. Survival rates for most cancers have improved over the past few decades. Highly tailored, more effective treatments have been developed to target different cancers, providing better cancer control. Due to these improvements in cancer therapy, many patients are living much longer and the result is there are more survivors developing late cardiovascular effects. In response, researchers have begun to systematically document the longer-term cardiovascular effects of cancer treatment, also known as cardiotoxicities.
Simply curing cancer is not sufficient. Cardiac toxicity requires evaluation and intervention. There needs to be evidence-based guidelines for patient care. This need has led to multidisciplinary research teams investigating cardiac side-effects that are associated with the changing landscape of cancer treatments to progress detection, management and prevention.
Ongoing research is essential to help inform clinical decisions about cancer treatments and cardiac side effects. It is important to evaluate the risk of cardiac side effects from selected treatments and for there to be ongoing monitoring of the patient's cardiac health to assess cardiac damage. Additionally there is a need for better ways to predict which patients are at risk of developing cardiac side effects as well as strategies for reducing this risk. Risk factors that predispose to cardiotoxicity should be discussed with the patient, and modifiable risk factors addressed during and after cancer therapy.