The Toll Cancer Takes on Your Ticker

Heart disease is often front and center this February for Heart Month, but when it comes to the most important muscle in your body, cancer survivors should also know how important cardiovascular health is to survivorship.

According to Health Canada, ischemic heart disease affects 2.6 million Canadians, and is second only to cancer as the leading cause of death in Canada. The two conditions are linked, and cancer treatment can often lead to heart problems developing. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, adult cancer survivors have a 42 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, people with heart disease also have an increased risk of getting cancer.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), chemotherapy is known to cause heart problems, based on the dose or combination of the drugs. Damage can occur with even small doses of drugs like cisplatin, carboplatin and paclitaxel. Anthracycline drugs are also known to cause heart damage.

Heart problems that can occur include congestive heart failure, damage to heart valves, coronary artery disease, and carotid artery disease, among several others. CCS recommends visiting a cardiologist if you begin developing symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness or chest pains. Luckily, some of these heart conditions are treatable.

For both cancers and heart disease, reducing your risk is a two-birds-one-stone action. Living a smoke-free, physically active life while eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol use is the best way to cut your risk of heart disease and getting cancer. Much like cancer, death rates for heart disease are also on the decline.

For Heart Month, know that your heart and cancer are linked, and that the health of one helps the health of the other. When it comes to survivorship, a good heart can lead to a good outcome.