This article about radiation being a threat to heart health even years after treatment has made the bc rounds. I've commented on it in a few places and knew I wanted to write about it, because the topic is important.
It's not new news that nuking the chest would possibly affect the heart. In fact, it's more along the lines of common sense.
It was a concern of mine as I struggled to make the decision about radiation, which was the hardest decision I made regarding treatment.
Thankfully, my radiation oncologist was also concerned about my heart and tried to design the radiation path to miss as much as he could. Also thankfully, my treatment center used the "gated" machine that this article mentions--one that is synced to zap at a certain point in your breathing to shield the heart as much as possible.
But I'm sure I got the highest dose they mention in the article, because my treatment involved daily regular doses and then weekly boosts of intense doses. I suppose you could say "Just don't give me the boosts," but that would risk losing the full benefit of the treatment. I'm an all in kind of gal once I decide to be all in.
I think getting radiation was a very good decision for me. In fact, I have come to think it might have been the thing that made the difference and is the reason I am still here, cancer-free six and a half years later. I'd love there to be more research on this exact point.
But that doesn't mean I don't have a risk for heart problems down the road. My heart took a measurable hit from chemo drugs and from Herceptin. But time and exercise have reversed that.
I file the heart risk away, along with all the other health ailments I may one day face because I had breast cancer and chose aggressive treatment for it.
It's a long list.
To say I don't worry about those things would be a lie, but it is true that I prefer to focus on something certain. That is the knowledge that I have had more than six years past cancer to mother my son, and I anticipate many, many more years to come.
If heart problems or other complications from cancer--or cancer itself--should come back, it'll have to catch me, because I'm already up to a sprint past that whole noise.