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Black Cancer Survivors- Chemo Heart Failure

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Black cancer survivors develop chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy (CIC) much more often than other cancer survivors according to the study linked and excerpted below.

If you are African-American and are a cancer survivor who has undergone cardiotoxic therapies, the good news is that I too have a damaged heart from cardiotoxic chemo regimens that I underwent in 1995 and I have been living with chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy since December of 2010. That is what is referred to as a late-stage side effect. 

Examples of cardiotoxic chemotherapy regimens are:

  • Vincristine
  • Doxorubicin
  • Cytoxan/cyclophosphomide
  • Busulphan
  • Melphalan

A bit more than half of CIC survivors die within 10 years of their diagnosis.  The standard-of-care, FDA approved treatment for CIC is/are ACE-inhibitors, ARBs and beta blockers (BB).

Though I try not to rely on statistics and “averages,” in my head, I have lived now, for more than 13 years since my diagnosis of CIC. Meaning I have already beaten the odds. In fact, I have not only stabilized my heart health, I have actually improved many of the common heart health therapies. I say this based on the metrics that I get when I undergo my annual echocardiogram.

man hand holding his nutritional supplemets, healthy lifestyle background.

When I was first diagnosed with CIC in late 2010, I too was prescribed a standard-of-care therapy-metoprolol.  After only a day or two on the medication I felt awful (fatigue, shortness of breath) and I chose to discontinue taking this drug. I chose to pursue evidence-based, non-toxic, non-conventional therapies such as:

  • nutrition
  • frequent, moderate exercise
  • supplementation, etc.

My issue then, was to manage my heart health as well as my CIC, Afib,  blood clot, ejection fraction (EF), Aortic aneurysm, etc. and live a normal quality-of-life (QOL) without toxic medications. 

It took a few years to figure out what I was doing but the results of five echocardiograms over six years- 2015-2021, as of my echocardiogram in June of 2021- are listed below.


  • CoQ10
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Curcumin
  • Vitamin D3
  • Cocoa
  • Carnitine 

several other supplements.

I’m not a cardiologist so I’m not telling you to undergo one therapy or another. I’m simply saying that I have managed my chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy since 2010 with evidence-based, non-conventional therapies.

If you would like to learn more about CIC, scroll down the page, post a question or a comment and I will reply to you ASAP. In the meantime,

Hang in there,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Black Cancer Patients 71% More Likely to Experience Heart Damage Following Chemotherapy Treatment

“Chemotherapy is associated with an increased risk of treatment-related heart damage, including heart failure and cerebrovascular disease, for many patients. But a new meta-analysis, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Advancing the Cardiovascular Care of the Oncology Patient 2023 conference, finds that Black patients or patients of African ancestry have 71% higher odds of cardiotoxicity following cancer treatment compared to White patients.

Cardiotoxicity is any heart damage stemming from cancer treatment or drugs, including chemotherapy agents and radiation. It can lead to several heart problems, including

  • heart failure,
  • cardiomyopathy and
  • irregular heart rhythms aka atrial fibrillation aka Afib-

Certain cancer treatments have a higher risk of causing cardiotoxicity, including anthracyclines, which are used to treat leukemias, lymphomas, and cancers of the breast, stomach, uterus, ovary and lung…

Researchers performed a systematic search of several databases—including Medline, Embase, Pubmed and others—of all studies reporting on cardiovascular toxicity in cancer patients of different racial/ethnic background receiving chemotherapy. After screening 7,057 studies, 24 studies representing 683,749 participants were included in the final review. Black race or African ancestry was associated with 71% increased odds of chemotherapy-associated cardiotoxicity; it was also associated with increased odds of a congestive heart failure diagnosis.

“These results may reflect the direct effects of racism, particularly structural racism, which leads to worse determinants of health for Black patients. It is well-documented that most health care settings are not perceived as safe by Black patients, which may increase their vulnerability to disease and decrease opportunities for preventative care,” Gebeyehu said. “Furthermore, decreased representation of Black patients in clinical trials may lead to treatments being developed that are not as effective or which may be riskier for Black patients. Importantly, these results should prompt further inquiry into the many possible contributors to disparities observed in Black patients.”

According to the researchers, the study quantifies the increased odds of chemotherapy-associated cardiotoxicity for Black cancer patients. The study also highlights the need for further study to determine underlying factors contributing to these disparities so they can be reduced.

“The most important message for patients is that they should not avoid chemotherapy, as the most important thing is making sure they get the best cancer treatment possible, and studies already show Black patients may get less optimal cancer treatments,” Gebeyehu said. “For clinicians, it is important to be aware of these higher odds of cardiotoxicity faced by Black patients. Understanding these disparities will hopefully lead to clinicians having more conversations around reducing cardiovascular risk associated with chemotherapy and targeted efforts to cater to groups at higher risk.”


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