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This information has been reviewed and approved by Chris Fine, MD (June 2024).

Understanding Cardiotoxicity

Cardiotoxicity is damage caused to the heart and cardiovascular system by some cancer treatments.


Common Causes

Some, but not all, cancer treatments can damage the heart. The most common include:

  • Chemotherapy – certain drugs
  • Radiation therapy – especially to the chest
  • Targeted or molecular therapy
  • Drugs to prevent cancer recurrence


Who's at Risk?

People over age 60, women, children and those who have had:

  • High doses of anthracyclines
  • High-dose chest radiation therapy
  • Anthracyclines and chest radiation therapy
  • Anthracyclines or trastuzumab with a history of smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity or heart problems
  • Anthracyclines followed by trastuzumab


Heart Problems Caused by Cancer Treatment

  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Blood clots
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Myocarditis
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Valve disease



A cardio-oncologist may use these and other tests to make the diagnosis.

  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Blood tests



Personalized treatment may include:

  • Aspirin
  • Statins
  • Beta-blockers
  • ACE inhibitors and angiotensin system inhibitors (ARBs)
  • Diuretics
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Nutrition counseling


How to Stay Healthy

  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat fruits, veggies and whole grains
  • Care for emotional health
  • Follow treatment plan
  • Ask for help when you need it

67% overall cancer survival rate

1 in 10 cancer patients die from heart disease not cancer

More Information about Heart and Cancer Care


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