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Cancer Treatments Linked to Heart Problems

Only certain cancer therapies are linked to heart troubles. These may include:

  • Radiation therapy, especially when given to the chest because it’s so close to the heart
  • Certain chemotherapy medicines, particularly anthracycline-based chemotherapy, though the amount used today is less than that used in previous decades
  • Certain targeted therapies or newer immunotherapy drugs 

Other factors can play a role in how likely someone is to develop heart troubles as a side effect of their cancer treatments. For example, if you:

  • Already have heart disease—that is, before finding out you have cancer
  • Have risk factors for heart disease—such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight or smoking
  • Older age
  • Receive higher doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Are on more than one treatment known to have damaging effects on the heart (for example, chest radiation therapy in addition to an anthracycline-based chemotherapy and trastuzumab)

  • Last Edited 01/31/2020