Q. I’m a breast cancer survivor. My doctor is sending me to a cardiologist for a thorough cardiac evaluation. She says the treatments I received may have damaged my heart. Can this be true?
We sympathize with your fears. Your cardiac risk depends on the type of treatment you had. A significant percentage of cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy agents in the class known as anthracyclines develop heart failure, cardiomyopathy, heart attack, valve disease, pericarditis or an arrhythmia. Sometimes it happens the first time the drug is infused, but it often occurs years later. Additionally, melanoma treated with dual chemotherapy may cause a life-threatening drop in left ventricular ejection fraction and rise in blood pressure. That doesn’t apply to you, but it shows that survivors of other cancers can be at risk, too.