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Cancer Treatment and Exercise

You may have been given medicine or therapies that target your cancer cells, but did you know that some cancer treatments also can damage your heart and blood vessels? This is called cardiotoxicity. The most common forms of cardiotoxicity include:

   • Cardiomyopathy and heart failure (heart muscle is damaged so that it can’t pump or receive blood normally)
   • Coronary artery disease (major sources of blood supply to the heart are damaged)

Your risk of cardiotoxicity depends on the treatments you receive (type and dosage). It also depends on certain risk factors — some of which you can’t control, and some you can.

Risk factors that can’t be controlled include your sex, age, and family history. Some examples of controllable risk factors are inactivity, obesity, and smoking. You are more likely to develop cardiotoxicity after a cancer diagnosis if you:

  • Are overweight or have obesity
  • Smoke 
  • Have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Don’t exercise regularly or spend a lot of time sitting
  • Already have heart disease

The good news is that exercise can help control your risks. Use this condition center to learn about the benefits of exercise for patients with cancer, what questions you should ask your care team, and how to get started. 

  • Last Edited 03/15/2023

Authors: Scott C. Adams, PhD; Lee W. Jones, PhD; Jessica M. Scott, PhD
Reviewers: Bonnie Ky, MD, MSCE; Peggy Anthony; Jennifer Klemp, PhD, MPH