June 10 (UPI) -- Radiation treatment may help rid patients of lung cancer, but it works at the risk of bringing on equally serious cardiovascular conditions, a new study show.
Thoracic radiotherapy for patients with lung cancer led to more than 10 percent of patients having heart attacks, heart failure and other cardiac episodes, according to research published Monday in Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The rates of people considered at high risk for a cardiac event was even higher for lung cancer patients with no history of cardiovascular disease.
"This is alarming data -- to think that one in 10 of the patients I'm treating for this type of cancer will go on to have a heart attack or other major cardiac event," Raymond Mak, a thoracic radiation oncologist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and study senior author, said in a news release. "These cardiac events are happening earlier and more often than previously thought. More patients are living long enough to experience this risk of cardiac toxicity. We need to start paying attention to this and working together with cardiologists to help these patients."
For the study, researchers looked at data for 748 patients with non-small cell lung cancer and found a direct correlation between increased dosages of heart radiation exposure and the risk of a cardiac event.
Thoracic radiotherapy treatment led to 77 patients having major adverse cardiac episodes.
The danger of developing coronary heart disease or another cardiac event was particularly high among those who didn't have the condition before radiotherapy treatment, study results revealed.
The authors say patients should receive lower dosages of radiation than national guidelines call for, preferably 10 gray units compared to 20.
"When possible, we should be thinking about ways to minimize cardiac radiation dose," Mak said. "Recognizing that we may not always be able to do that, we're now collaborating with our cardiology colleagues to explore early interventions to help mitigate the effects of cardiac injury from radiation therapy."