AHA: Breast cancer therapies, heart disease linked


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in the US.

It said an unprecedented number of women are surviving the disease yet face a risk of developing heart problems, in part due to their cancer treatments.

But Dr. Pina and the AHA said that women should not stop their cancer treatments. She further said that during the treatment the patient should not only concentrate on their breast health but also normal health involving the heart.

The charity stressed that the increase in the number of men dying from prostate cancer is largely because of the ageing population, and does not depict a worsening situation for patients; men diagnosed now with the disease are 2.5 times more likely to live for ten years or more than if they were diagnosed in 1990.

She said: "We need better tools to make these decisions more informed".

Dr Tochi Okwuosa: "The problem is, if you are at risk, and not everybody is at risk, you get through treatment, you get back to your regular life and all is well until all is not well, and somebody tells you, 'You have heart failure'".

In some cases, women might need a break from their cancer treatment to see whether any heart effects reverse, whereas others might need their treatment plan changed, the report noted. That's because the risk of developing a heart problem is lifelong with some of the treatments.

But for all patients, the chemotherapies may be life-saving. It's advice that Tonda has taken to heart to move past both diseases and into a healthier future.

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Some heart effects, such as those from chest radiation, may not show up until years later. And radiation can lead to valve damage and artery blockages. "This can cause isolated coronary artery disease in that portion of the artery". But women may benefit from a new approach to treatment that weighs the benefits of specific therapies against potential damage to the heart.

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. Among those who received a combination of anthracycline and trastuzumab, another chemotherapy drug, 12.5% developed that systolic dysfunction.

Mehta advises following the American Heart Association's' Life's Simple 7 to lower the risk of breast cancer. Herceptin studies have found a heart failure incidence of up to 4 percent, for instance.

However, experts don't encourage breast cancer patients to refuse recommended treatment.

The good news is that more and more women are beating breast cancer, according to Mehta.

"Older breast cancer survivors are more likely to die from other diseases and not breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease is the most frequent cause", she said. That's why the American Heart Association published the first scientific statement about these two major threats to women's health.

The authors note that there are several overlapping risk factors for CVD and breast cancer, including obesity and smoking.

Overall, "one of the great things about the cancer world right now is that there are more and more survivors", Mehta said.