June 21, 2024

Cancer treatment is a complex and multifaceted process that requires careful consideration of various factors. Among these factors, the presence of chronic diseases plays a significant role in shaping treatment strategies and outcomes. It is crucial to highlight how chronic diseases can influence cancer treatment and the overall journey of patients. We spoke to our expert Dr Mahadeva Swamy, Consultant Hemato Oncologist and BMT Physician, Manipal Hospital, Goa, who explained the impact of chronic diseases on cancer treatment.

Complications in Treatment Planning


“Patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) present unique challenges for oncologists. These conditions can complicate the planning and administration of cancer therapies”, said Dr Swamy.

For instance, certain chemotherapy drugs may exacerbate pre-existing heart conditions, necessitating adjustments in treatment dosages or even the selection of alternative therapies. Additionally, the presence of chronic diseases can limit the use of aggressive treatment modalities, such as surgery, due to the increased risk of complications.

According to a 2018 study, in 2015, chronic diseases caused 71% of global deaths, mainly due to cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and respiratory disease.

Also Read: Cancer Complications: Expert Explains Its Life-Threatening Complications And Management Measures

Impact on Treatment Tolerance


“Chronic diseases can also affect a patient’s ability to tolerate cancer treatments. For example, diabetes can impair wound healing and increase the risk of infections, which can be particularly problematic during chemotherapy or after surgical procedures”, added Dr Swamy.

Similarly, patients with respiratory issues like COPD may find it difficult to undergo radiation therapy, as it can further compromise lung function. This reduced tolerance often leads to delays, interruptions, or modifications in the treatment regimen, potentially impacting the effectiveness of cancer therapy.

Drug Interactions and Side Effects

Dr Swamy highlighted, “The management of chronic diseases often involves the use of multiple medications, which can interact with cancer treatments. These drug interactions can either enhance or diminish the efficacy of cancer therapies or increase the risk of adverse side effects.”

For instance, certain heart medications might interact with chemotherapy drugs, leading to cardiotoxicity. Therefore, oncologists must carefully review and manage a patient’s medication regimen to minimise harmful interactions and ensure the safety and effectiveness of cancer treatment.

Also Read: Are Brain Tumours Always Cancerous? Expert Differentiates Between Benign And Malignant Tumours

Psychological and Emotional Impact


“The psychological burden of dealing with both chronic diseases and cancer can be overwhelming for patients. The stress and anxiety associated with managing multiple health conditions can negatively impact a patient’s mental health, which, in turn, can affect their overall well-being and response to cancer treatment”, added Dr Swamy.

Providing comprehensive support, including counselling and mental health services, is essential to help patients cope with the dual challenges of chronic disease and cancer.

Need for Multidisciplinary Care

Given the complexities introduced by chronic diseases, a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care is often necessary. This approach involves the collaboration of various healthcare professionals, including oncologists, primary care physicians, cardiologists, endocrinologists, and pulmonologists, to create a comprehensive treatment plan. Such coordinated care ensures that all aspects of a patient’s health are addressed, optimising treatment outcomes and enhancing the quality of life.


Dr Swamy concluded, “Chronic diseases significantly influence the course of cancer treatment, presenting unique challenges and considerations for both patients and healthcare providers. By understanding these impacts and adopting a multidisciplinary approach, it is possible to tailor cancer treatments to better meet the needs of patients with chronic diseases, thereby improving their chances of successful outcomes.”

[Disclaimer: This article contains information provided by an expert and is for informational purposes only. Hence, we advise you to consult your expert if you are dealing with any health issues to get the necessary treatment.]

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