Chest irradiation can cause heart disease decades later


VIENNA : Hodgkin lymphoma patients who receive high dose irradiation as part of their treatment at an early age suffer from severe coronary artery disease (CAD) decades later, a research said on Sunday.


Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of lymphoma -- cancer of a part of the immune system called the lymph system -- which is generally believed to result from white blood cells of the lymphocyte kind with symptoms like fever, night sweats and weight loss.

"Patients with Hodgkin lymphoma receive high dose mediastinal irradiation at a young age as part of their treatment," said Alexander van Rosendael, a medical doctor at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands.

Irradiation of the chest can cause inflammation of the coronary arteries, making patients more vulnerable to developing CAD.

"There is an on-going debate about whether to screen patients who get chest irradiation for CAD," Rosendael added.

The study involved 79 patients who had received irradiation 20 years ago for Hodgkin lymphoma and were free from it for at least 10 years.

The findings showed that Hodgkin patients who had chest irradiation had much more CAD than people of the same age who did not have irradiation.

"The CAD occurred at a young age -- patients were 45 years old on average -- and was probably caused by the irradiation. The computed tomography angiography (CTA) was done about 20 years after chest irradiation so there was time for CAD to develop," noted Rosendael. 

The study that was presented at International Conference on Nuclear Cardiology and Cardiac (ICNC) in Vienna further stated that irradiated patients had all the features of high risk CAD.

Researchers suggested that patients who receive chest irradiation should be screened at regular intervals. 

"When you see CAD in patients who received chest irradiation it is high risk CAD. Such patients should be screened at regular intervals after irradiation so that CAD can be spotted early and early treatment can be initiated," noted Rosendael.

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