Irradiation of the heart incidental to the treatment of malignancies can cause a spectrum of cardiovascular complications. These include pericarditis, myocardial fibrosis, muscular dysfunction, valvular abnormalities, and conduction disturbances. Survivors of Hodgkin's disease and breast cancer survivors treated with radiotherapy after mastectomy appear to be the groups at highest risk for radiation-associated cardiovascular disease. Although modern techniques of chest radiotherapy have decreased its frequency by reducing the dose and volume of radiation exposure to the heart, survivors treated with radiation remain at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The risk of fatal cardiovascular disease increases with younger age at treatment, longer follow-up, and higher dose volumes of exposure to the heart. Certain chemotherapeutic agents, such as anthracyclines, also increase the risk of damage to the heart. Cardiac damage associated with radiotherapy may be progressive. Screening of survivors may help identify those at highest risk for serious cardiovascular disease. The broad range of radiation-associated cardiovascular disease makes it necessary for survivors to be examined with multiple screening modalities, although data do not exist to support definitive recommendations on test frequency.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Cancer Research