A new international study reveals that one in six people with broken heart syndrome has cancer with a lower five-year survival rate.

Broken heart syndrome, also known as takotsubo syndrome, occurs with the temporary enlargement of the heart's main pumping chamber and it experiences difficulty in pumping. Emotional and physical stress can reportedly trigger this condition, but the new study provides strong evidence of a link between broken heart syndrome and cancer.

The Study

Findings published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that one out of six patients reported to have broken heart syndrome in the International Takotsubo Registry also had cancer. Among those who are also diagnosed with cancer, the most frequent type of malignancy was breast cancer. It's followed by tumors that affect the gastrointestinal system, respiratory tract, internal sex organs, and then the skin and other areas.

The researchers also found that compared to those without cancer, the broken heart syndrome patients with cancer are less likely to have experienced an emotional trigger but more likely to have experienced a physical trigger before the syndrome occurred.

While both are equally likely to survive 30 days after the syndrome started, the patients with cancer are more likely to die or require intensive heart and respiratory support while in the hospital. They're also more likely to die within five years after the start of the syndrome.

What It Means And Further Research

According to senior author Christian Templin, M.D., Ph.D., patients who have been diagnosed with broken heart syndrome might find it beneficial to get screened for cancer in order to improve overall survival.

"Our study also should raise awareness among oncologists and hematologists that broken heart syndrome should be considered in patients undergoing cancer diagnosis or treatment who experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or abnormalities on their electrocardiogram," Templin, who is the director of Interventional Cardiology of the Andreas Grüntzig Heart Catheterization Laboratories at the University Heart Center Zurich, said in a news release.

The small scale of the study made it difficult for the researchers to analyze whether the worse prognosis for patients diagnosed with both broken heart syndrome and cancer are due to a specific type or stage of cancer. Another possible reason also have been the cancer treatments they received.

"The mechanism by which malignancy and cancer treatment may promote the development of broken heart syndrome should be explored, and our findings provide an additional reason to investigate the potential cardiotoxic effects of chemotherapy," Templin concluded.

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