Many patients in their journey with mesothelioma suffer from atrial fibrillation. Commonly known as a-fib or AF it is the most common form of heart arrhythmia. Heart arrhythmia is when “the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or in an irregular way,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The heart is divided into four chambers: the two upper atria and the two lower ventricles. When a person has AF, the beating in the atria is irregular causing the blood to pool, leading to ineffective heart beats. Blood pooling can cause clots to form. The clots can then cause strokes, if they block the circulation to areas of the body.
Sometimes people do not know they are in AF, but describe feeling a fluttering sensation in their chest. Other symptoms can include heart palpitations, lightheadedness, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, confusion, and chest pain.
Generally the risk for AF increases with age. Some other risk factors are high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart failure, ischemic heart disease, hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease and heavy alcohol use.
The figures most often reported are that AF affects 1.5% to 2% of the general population, and this increases to 10% at age 80 and 18% at age 85. The evidence is limited in the association of a cancer diagnosis and AF. The most common time that AF occurs with cancer patients is after surgery, with the highest incidence being after lung surgery. In other studies, AF occurs in 6% to 32% of patients.
AF is treated with medication, blood-thinners, surgery, and lifestyle changes. The treatments are specific to each patient, and there are treatment guidelines and criteria that your doctor will follow to determine how to treat your AF effectively with your mesothelioma.
We have seen many mesothelioma patients with AF. Some patients do not realize they are in AF, others are symptomatic with low blood pressure and weakness. After surgery and during your journey with mesothelioma it is important that you not ignore any new and different symptoms that you may experience. Your medical team is experienced in managing AF and they can help you deal with your symptoms.