Tags: Cancer | Heart Disease | breast | cancer | treatments | heart | disease

Breast Cancer Treatments May Increase Heart Disease

Breast Cancer Treatments May Increase Heart Disease
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By    |   Thursday, 01 February 2018 03:10 PM

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is traumatic enough for a woman, but knowing that treatments to save her life could put her at risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure, only heighten her anxiety. But women may benefit from a new approach to treatment that weighs the benefits of specific therapies against potential damage to the heart.

"Any patient who is going to undergo breast cancer treatment, whether they have heart disease at the beginning or not, should be aware of the potential effects of the treatments on their heart," said Laxmi Mehta, M.D.

"This should not deter or scare patients from undergoing breast cancer treatment, but should allow them to make informed decisions with their doctor on the best cancer treatment for them," Mehta continued.

During cancer treatments, patients should pay attention not only to their breast health, but also to their general health, including their heart, said Dr. Mehta, who is director of the Women's Cardiovascular Health Program and an associate professor of medicine at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

For example, some cancer treatments, such as HER-2 targeted therapies, can weaken heart muscle, a condition known as heart failure. In some patients, the reduction in heart function is temporary. In others, it's permanent. As a result, early development of heart failure can indicate the need to either slow a patient's treatment, or change to a different therapy to reduce the risk for worsening the condition or the development of permanent heart failure.

Some studies suggest that administering common chemotherapy therapies in new ways may reduce heart disease risks. For instance, the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin can damage heart cells, but studies have found that when doxorubicin is administered slowly, rather than all at once, the risk of heart failure may be reduced.

Other treatments, such as radiation, can damage heart arteries and cause the development of coronary artery disease or blockages. Some breast cancer treatment agents, such as anthracyclines, can result in abnormal heart rhythms, and can lead to life-threatening heart rhythms in others.

In addition, some treatments, such as antimetabolites, can cause heart arteries to spasm, which can cause chest pain symptoms but could also cause heart attacks.

"Fortunately, with the advances in breast cancer treatment, there has been a growing number of survivors," Mehta said. "However, during and after the treatment of breast cancer, having optimal control of heart disease risk factors is important, because older breast cancer survivors are more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer."

Mehta advises following the American Heart Association's' Life's Simple 7 to lower the risk of breast cancer. Life's Simple 7 includes being physically active, achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet, avoiding tobacco, maintaining healthy levels of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

About 12 percent of American women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. After skin cancer, it's the most common cancer in women.

More than 250,000 new cases of breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in 2017, according to the American Cancer Society, with 81 percent being diagnosed in women aged 50 and older.

Although breast cancer death rates have declined since 1989, over 40,000 American women die from the disease every year.

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Being diagnosed with breast cancer is traumatic enough for a woman, but knowing that treatments to save her life could put her at risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure, only heighten her anxiety. But women may benefit from a new approach to treatment that...
breast, cancer, treatments, heart, disease, failure
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2018-10-01
Thursday, 01 February 2018 03:10 PM
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