AHA: Breast cancer therapies, heart disease linked


But Dr. Pina and the AHA said that women should not stop their cancer treatments.

Chemotherapeutic agents (eg, anthracyclines, alkylating agents, taxanes, and antimetabolite drugs), endocrine therapies, HER2-targeted therapies (eg, trastuzumab, pertuzumab), novel emerging therapies, and radiotherapy are associated with increased incidence of many cardiovascular diseases including left ventricular dysfunction (LVD), arrhythmias, conduction abnormalities, heart failure, thrombosis, and cardiomyopathy.

"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.

"We hate to trade one disease for another", said Dr. Laxmi Mehta, an author of the statement and director of the Women's Cardiovascular Health Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She further said that during the treatment the patient should not only concentrate on their breast health but also normal health involving the heart.

She needed a stent to open her blocked artery, which was likely caused by her cancer treatment.

It turns out, some breast cancer treatments can damage your heart.

Its cardiotoxicity has always been known, but studies now indicate that administering the drug slowly, rather than all at once, may reduce the risk of cardiac damage, the AHA report said. Studies have shown that when doxorubicin is administered slowly, rather than all at once, patients may have a lower risk of heart failure. More studies will need to be done to confirm whether the results of the smaller studies are seen in larger groups of patients. Yet when such a patient ends up in the hospital, he said, doctors tend to look for signs of a heart attack or pulmonary embolism, while overlooking breast cancer treatment as a possible culprit. And radiation can lead to valve damage and artery blockages.

Gary Pettit
Gary Pettit works in the City of London

According to the organization, breast cancer survivors are more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer.

Those most are risk of developing the disease are men over 49 years old, and men of African-Caribbean or African descent.

That's the key message in the American Heart Association's first scientific statement to address the topic.

Adherence to a number of ideal heart health behaviours including being physically active, achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight could help.

"Some of the medications that are being used to treat breast cancer can ultimately end in cardiac disease", she said. Among older women, it even kills more who have been diagnosed with localized (not advanced) breast cancer: The long-running Women's Health Initiative reported last year that among women in their 70s with localized breast cancer, over a 10-year period 17 percent died from breast cancer and 22 percent from cardiovascular disease.

While there aren't many options when it comes to age and family history, Mehta et al. wrote patients can mitigate their symptoms by following the AHA's "Life's Simple 7" guidelines, which should reduce the odds of developing either condition.

Although there are an estimated 47.8 million women in the US who are living with cardiovascular diseases and approximately 3 million breast cancer survivors, many people regard breast cancer as the primary threat to women's health.