Can Chemo Cause a Heart Attack?


Chemotherapy, while an effective treatment for cancer, can have various side effects and impacts on the body. It’s known that certain types of chemotherapy drugs can potentially affect the heart and increase the risk of cardiovascular issues, although a heart attack specifically as a direct result of chemotherapy is less common.

Some chemotherapy drugs, especially certain types of anthracyclines like doxorubicin or daunorubicin, are known to have cardiotoxic effects. These drugs can weaken the heart muscle, leading to a condition called cardiomyopathy, which may increase the risk of heart failure or other cardiovascular complications over time. In some cases, this weakening of the heart muscle can eventually contribute to an increased risk of a heart attack.

Moreover, chemotherapy can also cause indirect effects that might elevate the risk of heart-related problems. For instance, it can lead to conditions such as anemia or low blood cell counts, which can strain the heart by forcing it to work harder to supply enough oxygen to the body.

Other factors during cancer treatment, such as stress, inflammation, changes in lifestyle, or concurrent conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, can further contribute to an increased risk of heart issues.

To manage the potential impact on the heart during chemotherapy:

  • Patients undergoing chemotherapy are usually monitored closely for any signs of heart problems.
  • Cardio-oncology, a specialized field that focuses on heart health in cancer patients, is gaining importance to monitor and manage cardiovascular risks during cancer treatment.
  • Certain preventive measures or medications might be recommended by healthcare professionals to help protect the heart during chemotherapy.

It’s essential for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy to have open discussions with their healthcare providers about the potential risks and monitoring of their heart health throughout the treatment process. Regular follow-ups and monitoring can help in early detection and management of any heart-related complications that might arise during or after chemotherapy.

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