Chest radiation cancer patients should have regular heart scans

30 July 2013

People who have received chest radiotherapy during their cancer treatment should be screened for heart problems every five to ten years, experts have advised.

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) have published the first ever consensus statement on screening for radiation-induced heart disease (RIHD).

Published in the European Heart Journal, the recommendations reflect the fact that radiotherapy treatment for cancer is known to increase the risk of problems with the heart valves, cardiac muscle, vessels, pericardium (the fluid-filled sac surrounding the heart) and coronary arteries.

Professor Patrizio Lancellotti, chair of the expert task force behind the consensus statement and president of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging, revealed: "The prevalence of radiation-induced heart disease is increasing because the rate of cancer survival has improved."

Figures suggest that between ten and 30 per cent of patients who receive chest radiotherapy develop radiation-induced heart disease within five to ten years.

While radiation treatment is now administered in lower doses than in the past, any patient whose heart is in the radiation field is still at risk of radiation-induced heart disease and would benefit from regular cardiac ECG tests, CT and MRI scans.

This includes people who have been treated successfully for breast cancer, lymphoma, oesophageal cancer or neck cancer.

Posted by Edward Bartel

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