"There was no mention that it could lead to heart disease. Would have been nice to know."
The growing number of cancer survivors and increasing number of over-65s needing chronic cancer therapy mean that the need for cardio-oncology services is rising. Heart failure caused by cancer therapy can occur up to 20 years after treatment. In 2012 over 32 million people worldwide were living with cancer.
"Depending on the type of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, between 1% and 25% cancer patients may develop heart failure due to cancer treatment," said study author Professor Robyn Clark, of Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. "Risk also depends on cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking and obesity. Better monitoring of the heart and intervention before, during and after treatment can prevent or lessen the impact of this cardiotoxicity."
The researchers reviewed medical records of 46 randomly selected cancer patients with cardiotoxicity who attended one of three hospitals between 1979 and 2015. Just 11% were referred to a cardiologist before chemotherapy and less than half (48%) were referred to a heart failure clinic after cancer treatment. Almost 40% were overweight or obese, 41% were current or ex-smokers, 24% were regular consumers of alcohol, 48% had hypertension, and 26% had diabetes.
In a subset of patients, practice was compared before (1994-2011) and after (2012-2015) the 2012 European Society for Medical Oncology guidelines were published.3 Referral to a cardiologist before chemotherapy rose from 0 to 23% and conducting a baseline echocardiogram of the heart increased from 57% to 77%.