Doctors at the American Heart Association warned that some breast cancer treatment may save lives, but increase the risks of heart disease.
The AHA notes that not all breast cancer therapies pose heart risks, therefore, it urges women to carefully assess the risks and benefits of any potential treatment they are considering. According to the AHA, careful documentation may help women find ways to at least minimize, if not avoid altogether, risks of heart disease as a side effect of breast cancer treatments.
Breast Cancer Treatments And Heart Disease Risk
The organization highlights that therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation can be life-saving. However, they can also cause heart failure and various other severe heart problems, even years after the treatment.
The AHA advises both doctors and patients not to avoid such life-saving treatments, but to take into account the potential cardiac risks and try to prevent them. For instance, the organization notes that breast cancer survivors should stick to a healthy diet and regular exercise in order to have better chances at a healthy and long life.
On Thursday, Feb. 1, the AHA published its first comprehensive scientific warning about the serious link between breast cancer treatments and cardiovascular disease. This information should not be something new to oncologists, but it should help patients and other medical professionals better understand the implications.
"Breast cancer survivors, especially older women over the age of 65, are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than breast cancer, underscoring the importance of effectively managing heart disease risk factors during and following cancer treatment," reads a stark warning from the AHA.
Breast Cancer Patients Should Consider Treatment Risk
Doctor Laxmi Mehta, chair of the writing group for this new scientific statement, highlights that any patient who is about to undergo treatment for breast cancer should know about the potential side effects the therapy might have, regardless of whether or not they already suffer from a heart disease before starting the treatment.
Mehta adds that this statement does not aim to discourage patients from agreeing to breast cancer therapies but help them make informed decisions regarding the best treatment for them.
Breast Cancer And Heart Disease
HER-2 targeted therapies, for instance, are popular cancer breast treatments that can save patients' lives, but they can also lead to heart failure, which is a weakening of the heart muscle. HER-2 is a kind of breast cancer.
Sometimes, the impact on the heart is only temporary, and the heart can regain proper function once the breast cancer treatment completes, or when the patient also adds heart medicine into the mix. For some patients, however, heart damage may be permanent.
With this in mind, the AHA stresses the importance of closely monitoring heart function all throughout the treatment and after. Catching heart failure early on could indicate that the patient needs a slightly modified treatment, or some extra care so as not to worsen the condition.
The AHA further notes that administering some chemotherapy treatments such as doxorubicin in new ways could yield better results and lower heart disease risks based on some small studies. Doxorubicin is frequently used in breast cancer therapy and it can damage heart cells, but administering the drug slowly rather than all at once could reduce the risk of heart failure.
Other common breast cancer treatments that may pose cardiac risks include radiation, anthracyclines, antimetabolites, and more. Breast cancer and heart disease also share several risk factors such as family history, poor diet, advanced age, tobacco use, or sedentary lifestyle. This indicates that patients could try to make better lifestyle choices like exercising regularly and having a healthy diet to reduce risks of developing these diseases.