Your health questions answered: Cancer treatment and your heart

You ask. OHSU health experts answer. This month, our cardiology and pediatric specialists are on the hot seat.

Q. Can cancer treatments damage my heart?

A. While cancer treatments including radiation and chemotherapy may help fight the disease, they may have negative side effects on your heart. Although this is rare, treatment can weaken your heart muscle or affect your heart’s ability to pump blood.

Before you begin a cancer treatment that might affect the heart, you will have basic tests like anelectrocardiogram (ECG) or tests to measure your heart function like a cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram). By finding heart problems before starting treatment, and by monitoring them during carefully, we can help to prevent heart issues. Make sure to talk to your oncologist if you have a pre-existing heart condition or if heart disease runs in your family.

Prepare your child for surgery

Q. How can I help my child prepare for surgery?

A.  Although specific details will depend on your child’s age and the surgical procedure, it’s always best to be clear and honest, as well as reassuring. In other words, don’t baby your child—explain what the surgery is for, what’s going to happen during it, and how he or she might feel after waking up.

You don’t need to explain every potential complication, but you do need to be truthful so your child knows what to expect: Kids are tougher than we sometimes give them credit for.

If you are concerned about your child’s fear or apprehension regarding surgery, our OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital’s Child Life program specialists use age-specific approaches to help lessen a child’s anxiety about any aspect of a hospital or surgery.


Maros Ferencik, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Maros Ferencik, M.D., Ph.D. sees patients at the OHSU Beaverton Cardiology Clinic, where he specializes in cardio-oncology (treatment of the cardiovascular side effects of cancer therapy) and general cardiology. U.S. News & World Report ranks the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute as the top cardiology and heart surgery hospital in Oregon.



Dr. Kenneth Azarow, M.D. specializes in pediatric surgery and is the surgeon-in-chief at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Doernbecher has the most pediatric specialists in Oregon and ranks among the nation’s best children’s hospitals.