An electrocardiogram, also known as an EKG or ECG, is a test that checks your heart function and identifies any abnormalities that may be present. This test works by recording electrical activity of the heart.
During an EKG, you are asked to lie down while 15-20 electrodes are attached to your arms, legs and chest. While you remain still, the EKG records the electrical waves of your heart onto graph paper for your doctor’s review. You may be asked to hold your breath for short amounts of time, or to exercise, such as walking or running on a treadmill, in order to monitor changes in the heart.
By measuring the rate and regularity of the heart, your doctor is able to detect:
- Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
- Heart defects
- Damage to heart muscles or tissue
- Heart valve issues
- Heart disease
- A heart attack or previous heart attack
Some chemotherapy drugs may affect heart tissue, so an EKG may be performed before cancer treatment to identify any pre-existing conditions, or during treatment to check for possible heart damage.
If any heart abnormalities are detected, your doctor may recommend more testing to determine next steps or modify your treatment plan.