Brian Hird battled Hodgkin's Lymphoma in his 20's. The radiation he needed to beat his cancer left him with major heart disease -- he didn't know it until he went into cardiac arrest.
"I would never in my wildest dreams thought I was having a heart attack," said the 37-year old Hird.
Research shows the chest radiation used to treat tumors for cancers like breast cancer and Hodgkin's Lymphoma can put patients at higher risk for aggressive heart disease. Now a new Cleveland Clinic study of about 500 people shows patients who had chest radiation are nearly twice as likely to die in the years after heart surgery.
"Seven-hundred, thirty-one patients we followed died due to lingering cardio pulmonary issues, so heart and lung problems in the long term," said Dr. Milind Desai with the Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Desai said doctors should try to minimize radiation exposure and shield their patients when possible. He also said heart surgeons may be able to use less invasive options. "In the higher risk patients, we're working on developing new technologies which would not require a full blown open heart surgery," he said.
Dr. Desai made the connection between Hird's cancer history and his heart problems.
"Don't ignore certain pains and twinges you get if you know if you've had radiation and definitely bring it to your doctors attention," Hird advised.
In the coming weeks, Hird needs surgery to replace two heart valves. He said he knows it's necessary for himself and his family.
Vinita Nair - CBS News
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