Cancer patients missing out on vital heart care
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Cancer patients missing out on vital heart care

Media Release - 19 June 2020

A new Australian study has found that heart patients with a history of cancer are less likely to receive the heart medications they need.

The study found that the management of risk factors for heart disease and stroke among cancer patients and survivors “was suboptimal compared to those without a history of cancer”.

Certain chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other cancer treatments are known to damage heart muscles, valves and blood vessels, and other organs. This study focused on how well cancer survivors’ risk factors for heart disease were being managed.

The study, co-authored by University of Newcastle researchers, Associate Professor Aaron Sverdlov, and Professor Doan Ngo, was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Professor Sverdlov is funded under a Heart Foundation Future Fellowship research grant while Professor Ngo is funded under a NSW Health Early-Mid Career Researcher Fellowship.

The researchers investigated the care of 320 patients who were admitted to the cardiology unit at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle between July 2018 and January 2019. They were being treated for heart attacks, blocked arteries, atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat), heart failure and other heart conditions.

Sixty-nine had a current or prior history of cancer and 251 had no history of cancer. Both groups had similar risk factors for heart disease and stroke, but the researchers found a discrepancy in who was taking medications to treat their risk factors.

The researchers found:

  • 58 percent of cancer patients and survivors were taking anti-platelet medications to prevent blood clots compared to 75.3 percent for the cancer-free group.
  • 63.3 percent of cancer survivors in this group were taking statins, which are usually used to treat high cholesterol or unstable plaque in the arteries, compared to 79.7 percent for those with no cancer history.

Cancer patients were also slightly less likely to be prescribed ACE inhibitors (angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors) and ARBs (angiotensin-receptor blockers) used to treat high blood pressure and for cardio protection, but the difference was not statistically significant.

Professor Sverdlov said previous studies suggested that cancer patients were also less likely to have bypass surgery to restore blood to blocked coronary arteries.

“We found that cardioprotective therapies are under-used in cancer patients and survivors compared to patients without a history of cancer, despite having similar risk factors for heart attack or stroke,” he said.
“The findings highlight practice and policy gaps and the need for guidelines for treating cancer patients who have signs of cardiac abnormalities.”

Professor Ngo said previous studies found that cancer patients were up to 15 times1 more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people with no history of cancer but this public health issue was not being widely addressed

The researchers recommended a multi-disciplinary approach for treating cancer patients.

The Heart Foundation’s General Manager of Heart Health and Research, Bill Stavreski, said the study provided new evidence about an emerging area of research, known as cardio-oncology.

“Australia has one of the highest cancer survival rates in the world. The immediate focus is on surviving the cancer, but the long-term health of survivors is also important.

“I encourage cancer survivors to talk to their doctor about their risk personal risk factors for heart attack and stroke, when they are ready to do that.” 

Media enquiries

Suzanne McKenzie, Senior Media Adviser
M: 0434 691 461 E: Suzanne.mckenzie@heartfoundation.org.au


Resources
1.Oeffinger KC, Mertens AC, Sklar CA et al. Chronic health conditions in adult survivors of childhood cancer. N Engl J Med 2006;355:1572-82.

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

Personal Walking Plan

Personal Walking Plan

Personal Walking Plan

Feel healthier and happier in six weeks with a free Personal Walking Plan...

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Support for young adults: Online events

Support for young adults: Online events

Support for young adults: Online events

A series of virtual events for young adults on managing emotional wellbeing. ...

Trek for Australian Hearts

Trek for Australian Hearts

Trek for Australian Hearts

Join the Heart Foundation in South Australia for the journey of a lifetime, trekking the ancient Flinders Ranges to help save Australian hearts....

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join our community of fundraisers who are committed to taking action to fight heart disease....

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehab is proven to keep you out of hospital and reduce your risk of death from heart conditions....

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Research to develop better evidence for the vascular and metabolic health benefits of vegetables and their bioactive constituents....

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Improving the design of our cities, towns, streets and buildings makes it easier for Australians to lead heart-healthy lives....

My health for life program

My health for life program

My health for life program

The Heart Foundation is a proud supporter of the Queensland My health for life program...

WEBINAR | The future of CVD risk assessment

WEBINAR | The future of CVD risk assessment

WEBINAR | The future of CVD risk assessment

Should population-based CVD risk assessment models make way for individualised risk prediction techniques?...

How we fought heart disease in 2020

How we fought heart disease in 2020

How we fought heart disease in 2020

Everything we do is possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters. ...

What is FoodTrack?

What is FoodTrack?

What is FoodTrack?

FoodTrack supports the collection and monitoring of nutrition and product data for foods and beverages in Australian supermarkets. ...

Q&A with Dr Jessica Orchard

Q&A with Dr Jessica Orchard

Q&A with Dr Jessica Orchard

Cardiac screening of athletes: disparities and differences in electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation criteria in under-represented populations...

The NSW Cardiac Rehabilitation Working Group

The NSW Cardiac Rehabilitation Working Group

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

How to boost your fruit and vegetable intake to help protect your heart. ...

Pregnancy and heart disease

Pregnancy and heart disease

Information and resources for health professionals....

How to make healthier meals at home

How to make healthier meals at home

How to make healthier meals at home

Cooking at home is often healthier than eating out....

What is angina?

What is angina?

What is angina?

Angina is a type of chest pain or discomfort that’s a symptom of an underlying heart problem, usually coronary heart disease (CHD)....

Health Professional Ambassador Program

Health Professional Ambassador Program

Health Professional Ambassador Program

Would you like to improve the cardiovascular health of your patients?...

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

One of the most powerful ways to help support a future without heart disease is to include a gift to the Heart Foundation in your Will...

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Training Centre

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Training Centre

Training to support identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, in line with standard practice....

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

Getting the right balance of fats in your diet can improve your heart health....

Wholegrains and heart health

Wholegrains and heart health

Wholegrains and heart health

All you need to know about wholegrains to put you on the right track...

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Explore how to manage your financial concerns after a heart attack. ...

Heart failure clinical resources

Heart failure clinical resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

The most common cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease....