Breast Cancer Coverage From Every Angle

Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases in Patients With Breast Cancer

By: David Jeans
Posted: Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A range of breast cancer treatments can increase the risk of heart disease among survivors, and practitioners are being urged to discuss with their patients a treatment approach that balances the benefits of specific therapies against the potential damage to the heart, following a recommendation from the country’s leading cardiovascular health organization.

Patients, particularly those 65 years and older, are more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer, as the American Heart Association recently announced in its first scientific statement on cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, published in its medical journal Circulation. An estimated 47.8 million women in the United States are living with cardiovascular disease, and about 3 million women are breast cancer survivors.

“Any patient who is going to undergo breast cancer treatment, whether [she has] heart disease at the beginning or not, should be aware of the potential effects of the treatments on [her] heart,” said Laxmi Mehta, MD, Director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Program and Associate Professor of Medicine at The Ohio State University and  Chair of the Writing Group for the new scientific statement.

A number of risk factors are shared by breast cancer and heart disease, including family history, fitness, poor diet, and advanced age. Given the overlap, the heart organization stressed the need to monitor a woman’s heart health parallel to breast cancer treatment. The organization pointed to radiation, for example, as a cause of coronary artery disease or blockages. In addition, HER2-targeted therapies can lead to heart failure.