Childhood Cancer

Childhood Cancer Survivors

Chapter 12. Heart and Blood Vessels

The human heart has hidden treasures, in secret kept, in silence sealed.

Charlotte Brontë, Evening Solace

CERTAIN TYPES OF RADIATION and chemotherapy can affect the cardiovascular system (i.e., heart, blood vessels, heart valves, and pericardium). Problems can occur during treatment, or months to years after treatment ends. Because children, teens, and adult survivors can appear well and be active despite heart damage, it is important to know if you are at risk and to obtain careful follow-up treatment to identify and treat problems early. It is also reassuring to find out if your particular treatments did not increase your risk of any of these problems.

This chapter provides a brief description of how the heart, blood vessels, valves, and pericardium function and describes the types of damage that can occur from treatment for cancer. It then discusses signs and symptoms of cardiovascular late effects and how to detect any heart malfunctions. Although some of the symptoms and ways to identify these late effects overlap, the four main types of damage are discussed separately. Each section ends with a brief description of medical management of cardiovascular late effects.