The effects of radiation therapy on the heart: implications for management

Kristin Hsieh, Alexandra E. Hotca, Juliana Runnels, Daniel Cherry, Julie R. Bloom, Catherine Yu, Anthony D. Nehlsen, Lucas Resende Salgado, Kunal K. Sindhu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery constitute the three primary modalities employed in the treatment of patients with cancer. Radiotherapy, in particular, is a mainstay of treatment for patients with cancers of the breast, esophagus, lung, and lymph nodes. Prior studies have shown, however, that radiotherapy can impact the heart. Radiation exposure, in fact, can lead to pathophysiological changes that may result in short- and long-term radiation-induced cardiac toxicities. Such toxicities can cause substantial morbidity and may manifest clinically in the weeks to years after the completion of treatment. As a result, in both modern clinical practice and clinical trials, the heart has been recognized as an organ-at-risk, and radiotherapy treatment plans seek to minimize the dose that it receives. In this review, we focus on the impacts of radiotherapy on underlying cardiac risk factors, the pathophysiology of radiotherapy-induced cardiac changes, and the clinical impacts of radiotherapy on the heart. Due to the location of the heart, we focus primarily on patients who have received radiotherapy for cancers of the breast, esophagus, lung, and lymph nodes, and those who have received cardiac-directed therapy. We then elaborate on the ongoing attempts to further lower the doses delivered to the heart during therapeutic courses of radiation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalChinese Clinical Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Radiotherapy
  • cancer
  • radiation-induced cardiac toxicity


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