Cancer survivors are at increased risk for the most severe type of heart attack and require close attention to their heart health, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., reviewed data on more than 2,300 patients who suffered this type of heart attack, called ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). One in 10 had a history of cancer, the investigators found.
“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.
“As cardiologists, we wanted to know if cancer and its therapies left these patients debilitated from a cardiovascular disease standpoint,” he said in a Mayo news release.
While the study found that cancer survivors had a higher rate of heart attack, not all of those attacks proved fatal. In fact, cancer survivors did not have a higher risk of death caused by heart attacks, the study authors noted. Instead, they were three times more likely to die of non-heart-related causes.
After their heart attack, patients with a history of cancer were more likely to arrive at the hospital with cardiogenic shock, where the heart suddenly can’t pump enough blood.
These patients were also more likely to receive intra-aortic balloon pump therapy, in which a device is inserted to help the heart pump blood. The need for this treatment may indicate a reduction in the heart’s ability to pump blood, the researchers said.
Cancer survivors were also more likely to be hospitalized for heart failure during follow-up. But those who received proper medical treatment were not at increased risk of dying from heart disease. These patients eventually died from their cancer, the study authors said.
“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.