Cardio-Oncology: Radiation and Heart Disease

Understand Your Condition

Exams and Tests


What types of heart tests might you receive before beginning your cancer treatment? Tests may include:

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a picture of your heart’s electrical activity. Some cancer treatment makes certain measurements on an ECG change so you may have more than one ECG during treatment. An ECG can detect abnormal heart rhythms, called arrhythmias.

Studies to Measure Ejection Fraction

In many ways, your heart is a muscle like those in your arms or legs. The muscle of your heart is in the left ventricle. Every time your heart beats, it is expected that a certain amount of blood is pushed out of your left ventricle to the rest of your body with each heartbeat: This is known as your ejection fraction. In general, an ejection fraction of greater than or equal to about 55% is considered normal.

Some cancer treatments can lower your ejection fraction. If you have had chemotherapy or radiation in the area of the heart, you may receive several echocardiograms during treatment, for years after treatment or both. Studies for ejection fraction:
  • Echocardiogram
  • Multigated acquisition (MUGA) scan (involves your receiving a radioactive solution given through a vein using an intravenous (IV) line and then having an X-ray taken)
  • Cardiac MRI

Cardiac Catheterization

During a cardiac catheterization, a thin tube or catheter is guided into an artery, usually in the wrist or leg, and up to the heart. The test goes into the body to directly evaluate the arteries of the heart.

< Other Risk Factors Prevention >

Published: November 2017
Authors: William Stokes, MD; Priscilla Stumpf, MD; Lavanya Kondapalli, MD; Arthur Liu, MD, PhD
Medical Reviewers: Bonnie Ky, MD, MSCE; Debra Madden, BA; Charles Porter, MD; Karen Lisa Smith, MD, MPH

These modules were developed in collaboration with the Eastern Cooperative Group—American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ECOG-ACRIN) Cardiotoxicity Working Group and Patient Advocacy Group.

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