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Cancer Survivors at Higher Risk of Severe Heart Attack

You would be hard-pressed to imagine a worse fate than cancer. Aptly called “The Emperor of All Maladies,” cancer has, in one form or another, impacted all of our lives, either directly or indirectly. However, as bad as the various types of cancer can be; thousands upon thousands of people each year are treated and find themselves in remission, and even cancer free.

Sadly, according to a new study, that doesn’t leave cancer survivors in the clear.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have found that cancer survivors are at an increased risk for the most serious and severe type of heart attack.

“We’ve watched cancer survivorship increase over the past two-and-a-half decades, which is wonderful. But, it has led to new challenges, such as handling of downstream illnesses and side effects to an extent never encountered before,” said study senior author Dr. Joerg Herrmann. He is an interventional cardiologist at the clinic.

The study reviewed data from more than 2,300 patients who suffered from ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the most severe type of heart attack. Of those patients, One in ten had a history of cancer.

“As cardiologists, we wanted to know if cancer and its therapies left these patients debilitated from a cardiovascular disease standpoint,” said Dr. Herrmann.

Although this finding is a cause for concern, there is an interesting twist to the results. While the study found that cancer survivors were at a higher risk of having a heart attack; the fatality rate of said heart attack did not increase.

The study also showed that after a heart attack, patients with a preexisting history of cancer were more like to arrive at the hospital in a state of cardiogenic shock; which is where the heart suddenly can’t pump enough blood.

“This study supports the importance of cardiologists and oncologists working together to care for these patients,” Herrmann said. This type of care is known as cardio-oncology.

“Clearly, our goal is that the cancer patients of today do not become the cardiac patients of the future and if they do, that we comprehensively see them through,” he added.

The study, which was published on December 1 in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings is a huge step in the right direction in regard to aftercare concerning cancer survivors. This is a clear indicator that while the battle with cancer might have been won, the war might still be potentially waging in other, equally as serious health concerns.