MORRISVILLE, N.C., Oct. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- There is good news for cancer patients whose medical treatments put them at risk for future cardiac problems: using strain echocardiography can help physicians detect early signs of cardiac toxicity. To help get this information out to those in need, the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) is preparing a guideline document outlining the best way to evaluate cancer patients, and has funded a research study to enhance identification of patients who are at risk.
The September 2011 death of 51-year-old Kara Kennedy of a heart attack brought the link between cancer treatments and cardiovascular damage into the spotlight for both patients and their physicians. Kennedy, the only daughter of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, was reportedly in remission after having been treated for lung cancer in 2002. While the direct relationship between her cancer treatment and her death remain unclear, one theory links damage to her heart from her chemo treatments. With this tragedy, physician awareness of the link between specific cancer therapies and heart complications has renewed interest.
In the past, when cancer treatments were not very effective and cancer was usually fatal, little attention was paid to the complications from treatment. With the advent of more successful new therapies for cancer that have raised survival rates, concerns about their long-term effects have now become paramount. "There are 2.2 million survivors of breast cancer in the U.S. alone," said Juan Carlos Plana, MD, Co-director of Cardio-oncology, Cleveland Clinic, "and heart disease, not cancer, is the biggest risk they face." When a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, she (or he) is tested for the HER2 mutation, an aggressive form of cancer which affects 20-25% of breast cancer patients and is typically treated with Doxorubicin, followed by Herceptin. Unfortunately, as many as one third of patients receivin