Chemotherapy generally works by inhibiting growth or function of active tissues within the body. The intent is to slow growth or kill tumor or cancer cells. Since the heart is also composed of active tissue (the heart is constantly pumping), some forms of chemotherapy can weaken the heart.
Most forms of chemotherapy usually do not affect the heart. Those that are may be associated with cardiomyopathy are drugs like daunomycin, doxorubicin or Herceptin, but there are certainly others as well. In most cases, the heart function will recover when holding or stopping the offending agent.
Normal heart function or ejection fraction (EF) is 55-65%, meaning that with each beat, the heart pumps 55-65% of the blood inside the heart to the rest of the body. Cardiomyopathy implies some decrease in EF to less than 50% (which is considered borderline or low normal.)
Shortness of breath
Edema or swelling
Fatigue, especially with exertion
Unexplained weight gain
Shortness of breath when lying down
The typical first step in management is removing the offending agent if possible.
Beta-blockers (atenolol, metoprolol, carvedilol, etc) can relax the heart, lower blood pressure and slow the heart to improve filling and pumping function.
ACE-inhibitors (lisinopril, enalapril, etc) or ARB’s (losartan, candesartan, etc) can also lower blood pressure, relax the heart and improve blood flow to the kidney.
Diuretics may be used to remove excess fluid.
Spironolactone can also be used to remove fluid and help relax the heart.
Pacemakers or defibrillators may be recommended in some cases.
Print this information
For Additional Information
URMC Cardiology Highland
1000 South Avenue
Rochester, NY 14620
Phone: (585) 341-6780
Map and Directions
URMC Cardiology Lakeside
80 West Avenue, Suite 205
Brockport, NY 14420
Phone: (585) 637-6000
Map and Directions