Chemotherapy Treats Cancer, but can Damage Heart


March 15, 2014

Many people don’t know that the same chemotherapy treatments that prolong life can also have devastating consequences on our hearts, Ivanhoe News reports via WFMZ in Allentown. Penn Medicine patient Derek Fitzgerald survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma but his treatment damaged his heart to the point where he needed a transplant. It's a reality Mariell Jessup, MD, medical director of the Penn Medicine Heart & Vascular Center, said few patients are aware of. "In Derek’s case, there are chemotherapy agents that actually weaken the heart.” In fact, Jessup said treatment may put a survivor at three to seven times greater risk of developing heart disease. Jessup recommends that cancer patients should talk to their doctors about getting regular health screenings. Fitzgerald found a new heart, and despite having never exercised before, began to, to honor his donor. Eight months post-transplant, he ran his first 5K. Two months later, he ran a half-marathon. Just two years later, he completed his first Ironman. "Every time I get out there, it's a celebration of this chance that I’ve been given," Fitzgerald explained.

WFMZ segment