American Heart Association Warns Breast Cancer Patients That Treatment May Affect Their Hearts

The American Heart Association (AHA) is warning breast cancer patients and survivors that certain cancer treatments may put their hearts at risk, according to a statement released Thursday in the journal Circulation.

Breast cancer survivors who’ve received chemotherapy and radiation may be at an increased risk for heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases. The AHA is not recommending breast cancer patients forego treatment, but patients and their doctors should weigh the benefits of specific treatments and their potential damage to the heart. In a press release about the statement, Dr. Laxmi Mehta, lead author for the statement, said:

Any patient who is going to undergo breast cancer treatment, whether they have heart disease at the beginning or not, should be aware of the potential effects of the treatments on their heart. 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.

Changing the way chemotherapy drugs are given, such as administering the drug slowly instead of all at once, may decrease the chance of heart disease, according to the statement.

While cancer treatments may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, the AHA statement added that both breast cancer and heart disease have similar risk factors. These risk factors include poor diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use, indicating that some risk factors — though not all — can be decreased by lifestyle choices.

“Fortunately, with the advances in breast cancer treatment, there has been a growing number of survivors,” Mehta said. “However, during and after the treatment of breast cancer, having optimal control of heart disease risk factors is important, because older breast cancer survivors are more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer.”

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 41,000 women will die of breast cancer in 2018. Only lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer. Death rates for breast cancer have dropped 39 percent between 1989 and 2015. This is believed to be the result of better treatments as well as prevention and detection methods.

Almost 290,000 women died from heart disease in the U.S. in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s more than seven times the amount of women expected to die from breast cancer in 2018.

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Photo by Remains/Getty Images

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