Is there a connection between breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases?
Chemotherapy has saved many women with breast cancer, but the treatment could also have affected the hearts of those affected significantly. Women with breast cancer appear to have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, after treatment. Doctors and patients should weigh the benefits of specific treatments against possible damage to the heart.
Treating breast cancer can have a negative impact on heart health. The American Heart Association (AHA) experts have now issued a clear warning of cardiovascular disease as a result of breast cancer therapy. The results of the research were published in the English-language journal "Circulation".
What are the reasons for the increased risk?
There appear to be three main reasons for an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases in women after breast cancer treatment: pre-existing risk factors for the heart such as uncontrolled hypertension or high cholesterol levels, which are not examined in breast cancer treatment. Exposure to chemotherapy and radiation, which can harm the heart. And as a third point, a lifestyle without sufficient exercise, which leads to weight gain during treatment.
Drug doxorubicin massively increases the risk
Both breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases share certain risk factors, the experts explain. These include, for example, weight gain, lack of exercise and so-called metabolic dysfunction, which are risk factors for breast cancer recurrences and cardiovascular diseases. The greatest risk is the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin, a so-called anthracycline. Eight treatments already increase the risk of heart failure by five percent. With 14 doses, the risk is increased by a full 48 percent, say the doctors.
Patients should be informed about the possible side effects
Every patient who needs breast cancer treatment, regardless of whether they initially have heart disease or not, should be aware of the potential effects of the treatments on their heart, explains Dr. Laxmi Mehta from Ohio State University. The expert also works for the American Heart Association. However, the finding should by no means prevent patients from undergoing breast cancer treatment, but rather allow them to make informed decisions about the best cancer treatment together with their doctor, adds the doctor.
Breast cancer survivors often die from cardiovascular disease
Breast cancer survivors over the age of 65 die more often from cardiovascular disease than new breast cancer, the researchers say. With the publication of the statement in the journal, the American Heart Association hopes to increase awareness of the greatest health threats to women after cancer. The experts also issued a press release on the subject.
The behavior of those affected has a major impact on possible diseases
Patients should always get the best possible treatment for breast cancer, says Dr. Mehta. However, everyone should talk to their doctor about the potential side effects. Much of the risk can be reduced by changing the behavior of those affected.
Cardiotoxicity must be monitored during and after breast cancer treatment
Monitoring, prevention and secondary management of so-called cardiotoxicity are critical in the treatment of breast cancer. After that, long-term monitoring of late cardiotoxicity is essential, the scientists say. Cancer treatment can lead to early or delayed cardiotoxicity, which can have serious effects on the body. These include, for example, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, myocardial ischemia, heart valve disease, pulmonary hypertension and pericarditis. However, the most common side effect of chemotherapy is left ventricular dysfunction, the researchers say. (as)