Meta-analysis of multiple clinical studies retrospectively has revealed a higher risk of subsequent stroke in cancer survivors that were treated with radiation treatment or chemotherapy : a long term chemo side-effect.
Examination of data from a number of independent past clinical studies or large patient data sets is indicating that cancer survivors who have undergone radiation therapy or chemotherapy treatments may have an increased risk of subsequent stroke. A stroke occurs when the blood vessels supplying oxygen and nutrients to the brain are blocked by a blood clot or are damaged due to rupture. The brain cells devoid of oxygen and nutrients begin dying within minutes causing long lasting and severe deficits. A stroke is a medical emergency and prompt treatment can minimize brain damage and potential future complications. Stroke and cardiovascular risks increase with age but there is a new association being seen with increased stroke risk in cancer survivors (a long term side-effect of chemo).
Risk of Treatment-Induced Stroke in Cancer Survivors
A study by Xiangya School of Public Health, Central South University in China, did a meta-analysis of 12 shortlisted independent retrospective published studies between 1990 to 2017, with 57,881 total patients, who were treated with radiation therapy. Their analysis revealed a higher overall risk of subsequent stroke in cancer survivors that were given radiation therapy compared to those that were not treated with radiation therapy. They found a higher risk of stroke in radiotherapy treated patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and head/neck/brain/nasopharyngeal cancers. This association of radiation therapy and stroke was found to be higher in patients younger than 40 years when compared to the older patients (Relative Risk 3.53 vs.1.23). Also, there were differences seen between region or country where the patient was treated with Europe showing a higher relative risk of stroke association when compared to US or Asia. Although this analysis of a large number of patient data from different studies indicates an overall doubling of the subsequent stroke risk in cancer patients given radiation therapy that was statistically significant according to the cancer type, patient age and region or country where treated, this information does not help in estimating the extent to which any individual patient will be at risk (Huang R, et al, Front Neurol., 2019).
In another study from the Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, South Korea, they examined data from the Korean National Health Insurance Service National Sample Cohort database between 2002-2015. Data from 20,707 cancer patients were compared with 675,594 non-cancer patients, followed up for 7 years. They found a positive association of a higher risk of stroke in cancer patients when compared to non-cancer patients. Treatment with chemo was independently associated with an increased risk of stroke (long term side effect). The risk of stroke was higher in patients with cancers of the digestive organs, respiratory cancers and others such as breast cancer and cancers of male and female reproductive organs. Their conclusion from this large scale analysis was that the risk of stroke in cancer patients increased at 3 years after the diagnosis and this risk continued until 7 years of follow-up (Jeng HS et al, Front. Neurol, 2019).
In summary, getting diagnosed with cancer is an overwhelming, life-changing event. With the urge to completely eliminate the body of the cancer cells, there is a push to treat the cancer very aggressively early on. In the light of all the past data and as highlighted by the above studies, the patients and medical practitioners need to consider treatment choices based on not just the immediate goals of killing the cancer cells, but also the future consequences and impact on quality of life for a survivor once they are in remission.
Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.