Cardiovascular risk a gap in survivorship care


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It's hard to imagine that someone who has been through cancer would have to worry about dying of cardiac disease, but according to a new study, long-term cancer survivors have more risk factors for cardiovascular disease than those who have not had cancer. The 1,582 survivors of breast, prostate, colorectal and gynecologic cancers who were studied came from two California cancer registries who were recruited from four to 14 years past treatment. Once accepted into the study, the survivors were sent a survey that asked them to self report about a number of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, including smoking, body mass index, physical inactivity, cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. It also asked whether the survivor had discussed these factors and living a healthier lifestyle with their health care providers. The results are rather astounding. Except for smoking, risk factors for cardiovascular disease were more common among survivors than the general public: 62 percent were overweight or obese, 55 percent had hypertension, 20 percent were diabetic, and 18 percent described themselves as inactive. Five percent said they smoked. Hispanic and African-American survivors had a greater number of CVD risk factors, particularly obesity and diabetes.One third said they had not discussed their cardiovascular factors with their physicians.This study points again to the importance of primary care physicians understanding the cancer history of their patients, and cancer patients understanding their susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. We continue to focus on the need for patients to leave treatment with the understanding that their lives will be different because of their cancer therapy, particularly if they have had radiation and chemotherapy, both of which can impact their heart. Take charge of your future. Get a survivorship care plan for your future. Stop smoking, start moving and begin eating for your health. You have a number of years ahead of you if you do.You can read more from my CURE article on the subject: "Planning for Cancer Survivorship."

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