Survival rates for cancer have seen a great improved in the last decade thanks to modern treatments. However, some of these treatments can result in toxicity and damage to the heart that may mean a patient has to reduce their dose or stop the therapy altogether.
Consultant cardiologists and consultant oncologists work together to ensure the best optimal cancer treatment for a patient, and now cardio-oncology is increasingly being recognised as an important sub-specialty of medicine. Before starting cancer therapy, patients require careful screening for cardiovascular risk, particularly when treatments that could potentially damage the heart are being considered. In addition, patients should be monitored on treatment so that side effects can be identified and be brought under control. The type of cardiac toxicity depends largely on the type of drug that is being used.
The most common form of adverse effect is the deterioration of the contractile strength of the heart. In the majority of cases the cancer treatment can continue, but additional drugs may be required to improve and protect the heart function. Other potential adverse cardiac effects of cancer therapies include high blood pressure and changes in the conduction properties of the heart. The development of a coordinated multi-disciplinary approach with oncologists, cardiologists, and specialist nurses is essential to delivering safe and high quality care for cancer patients.