Taking charge of your heart health during and after cancer treatment is an important part of your cancer survivorship journey.
- Know and write down any cancer treatments you receive. Record the name of the therapy, amount (dose) and how long the treatment lasted. Ask which, if any, have been linked to heart issues. Keep a health binder or folder so you won’t
forget. Your personal history of cancer should be part of any discussions you have with your care team about your cardiovascular health. That means sharing which cancer treatments you’ve had and listing these along with things like high
blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and family history.
- Ask about heart checks and go to follow-up visits. For some people, routine monitoring with bloodwork, echocardiograms or other tests may be needed to help pick up on changes in heart function or early signs of damage. Noticing these
changes, if any, will help signal whether you need to act.
- Know what signs to watch for to catch any heart problems early on. Trust your gut. You know your body best, so if you feel something just isn't right – if you have trouble breathing or feel unusually tired or sluggish
– tell your doctor and remind your care team about your cancer history, too. Some people don’t develop heart problems for many years after finishing cancer treatment.
- Manage other conditions known to lead to heart disease. For example, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and tobacco use.
- Make lifestyle changes that support your heart health. Find ways to:
• Make healthful food choices
• Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day on most days
• Not smoke
• Lose weight if you need to
• Aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night
• Reduce stress
- Your needs and concerns may change over time. Talk about your concerns and feelings related to surviving cancer and also making sure your heart stays as healthy as possible, too.
Watch for Signs
The following may signal possible heart issues:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Irregular, slow or rapid heartbeat, or palpitations
- Swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet which due to a buildup of fluid in the tissues
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
Even the hearts of younger, very active people can be affected, so it’s important to ask questions and know what can be done to protect your heart.