Heart Health Problems Start Sooner in Childhood Cancer Survivors

Compared to siblings with no history of cancer treatment, childhood cancer survivors may have undiagnosed heart problems while still young.

Survivorship in the U.S. is a means of treating survivors of cancer, and it tends to look at the long-term picture in which many survivors are at risk for a host of health problems related to their cancer treatment.

Examining heart health

New (unpublished) research presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association suggests that some of those health problems considered long-term may actually be affecting patients when they're still young.

In a news release, Donald Dengel, a kinesiology professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said:

Research has shown childhood cancer survivors face heart and other health problems decades after treatment. But researchers had not, until now, looked at the heart health effects of childhood cancer treatment while survivors are still children.

Dengel and colleagues looked at artery stiffness, thickness and function in more than 300 patients between the ages of 9 and 18 who had reached the five-year mark since their diagnosis with a childhood cancer. They were compared to a control group of more than 200 siblings with no cancer history.

Survivors at higher risk

The researchers found that survivors were more likely than their siblings to experience a decline in arterial function (one that could indicate premature heart disease) and a decrease in arterial health.

Researchers recommend lifestyle changes for survivors that take into consideration this risk, and further, that those in health care who work in survivorship make cardiovascular risk factors a priority for patients immediately after the patient has completed therapy.

Source: Newsday

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