What is Cardiotoxicity?

“Many oncology patients are at risk for emergent medical conditions brought on either by their disease itself, or its treatment. Such conditions typically arise from structural/mechanical defects, metabolic derangements, and/or hematological deficits. Although rehabilitation staff members do not treat these emergent conditions, they are uniquely positioned to recognize changes in patient status that may signal an emergent condition…”

Conditions seen in the Oncologic Population:

  • Superior Vena Cava Syndrome (SVCS)
  • Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)
  • Acute Heart Failure
  • Infection/Cellulitis
  • Metastases
  • Cardiotoxicity


  • Cardiotoxicity is a condition where there is damage to your heart, commonly seen in patients undergoing chemotherapy. This damage does not allow the heart to pump blood effectively to the rest of the body, resulting in deficits.
  • Oncologic patients with cardiac risk factors or (i.e. diabetes, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure, smoking history, and obesity [BMI >30], etc.), and with history of chronic venous disease, are more vulnerable to cardiovascular injuries/death
  • Other risk factors that could contribute to cardiotoxicity include: renal disease, left ventricular hypertrophy, resting glucose >100mg/d

Type II Cardiotoxicity causes cell dysfunction, especially in the muscles, and is reversible.

People undergoing chemotherapy using taxanes are 2-3x greater risk of falls.

There is an increase in chemotherapy-related cardiac dysfunction because oncology patients are surviving longer and these effects can be seen even 20-30 years after receiving treatments.

What Does This Mean for Me?

Your oncology team will keep an eye on your symptoms and be able to medically manage, but because of the dysfunction seen in muscles, you may experience residual weakness. This looks like: having difficulty moving around in bed, getting up from a low chair, walking more than a few blocks, completing your chose, feeling off balance or reliance on an assistive device or furniture to walk around.

The good news, with rehabilitation under the supervision of a Doctor of Physical Therapy, you will gain strength, improve your cardiovascular endurance, and improve your balance over time. You will be better able to return to your previous level of function.

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