When a patient finds oneself in the middle of a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment with chemotherapy, radiation and other therapies, the probability is that the last thing on that person’s mind at that time is the long-term effect that such treatments will have on their overall health. However, I am becoming increasingly aware of various such issues and was particularly interested in an article that addresses the growing concern with regard to heart issues that are a side effect that has basically been ignored.
With new targeted therapies in the delivery of radiation, as an example, more patients will now have the opportunity to receive the treatments that they need while mitigating the effects on the heart and the rest of the circulatory system.Barbara Jacoby
In the past, heart health was not seen as a great concern as the focus was on treating the cancer and keeping the patient alive. But as breast cancer patients are living longer, there is a whole set of health concerns with which one might have to deal and one of those is those dealing with the heart. With a greater number of survivors, there is now more attention and research being given to the toxic effects of the various treatments and how they are affecting the heart as well as considering what can be done to promote heart health after breast cancer treatment.
In an article published in “Circulation”, a plan, the “ABCDE plan” was introduce that provides a list of issues that should be considered and addressed by a patient. These guidelines are provided in the hope that if certain behaviors are addressed and changed, if necessary, a person’s heart health will be positively affected. But, as always, the best thing that a patient can do is to be aware of heart disease symptoms and raise any questions and/or issues with their oncologist. However, as the symptoms can be subtle, it is not always apparent to doctors and other health professionals to consider heart disease when evaluating those patients who otherwise seem healthy.
With new targeted therapies in the delivery of radiation, as an example, more patients will now have the opportunity to receive the treatments that they need while mitigating the effects on the heart and the rest of the circulatory system. And as more and more research is being done that continues to find ways to do a better job of treating the cancer itself, the hope is that the targeting effects will eliminate the cancers at their locations so that not only will the cancers not spread but also that the treatment will not do collateral damage.
As each new drug and treatment comes to market, a new vigilance is needed in order to assure that the treatment will not end up causing more harm to the patient than the original disease. In addition, it will become increasingly important for a patient to know about their treatments and their side effects and to report any changes in health or outcomes immediately to their medical teams.
Perhaps such reporting will grow a shared database of information about every drug and treatment in use so that better monitoring will be the ultimate outcome and the creation of such collateral damage like heart health problems can be ultimately eliminated. This has become so very important as the future of cancer treatments grows and the cancer for which one is treated may no longer be the primary health concern in a patient’s life.