Breast cancer survivors also at increased risk for developing heart disease

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by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Although breast cancer survivors usually worry about their long-term risk of recurrence, most of these women should be just as concerned about their hearts, medical researchers reported at a San Francisco oncology conference.

The 10-year risk of a serious cardiovascular event was at least as high as the risk of breast cancer for 78% of women, Dr. Aditya Bardia of Johns Hopkins and colleagues reported at the ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium. 

See also:  When cancer treatment damages your heart

Dr. Rowan Chlebowski of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and chair of the session where the results were presented, said this link is a consistent message emerging in breast oncology:

”  Breast cancer patients need more attention to cardiovascular health regardless of their risk level.  We need more interaction with cardiologists.”

This may mean referrals of high-risk patients for appropriate management, Dr. Bardia added. But counseling about risk reduction strategies common to cardiology and oncology, such as physical activity, may help avoid both hazards, he suggested.

Cardiovascular disease risk was more likely to be the predominant concern for women who had low grade tumours, small breast tumours, node negative disease, and early stage breast cancer.

Findings of Dr. Bardia’s preliminary studies don’t negate the importance of long-term management of breast cancer risk, but suggest more attention to the bigger picture is warranted. Other things are also important, and these results were estimates based on prognostic tools rather than actual outcome data, and the study did not factor in potentially important variables including obesity, diabetes, and the effect of breast cancer treatment on risk.

Read this report of the Breast Cancer Symposium presentation.

NOTE FROM CAROLYN:  I wrote more on cardiac risk factors in my book, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease”. You can ask for it at your local bookshop, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from my publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press (use their code HTWN to save 30% off the list price).

9 thoughts on “Breast cancer survivors also at increased risk for developing heart disease

  1. A breast cancer survivor of 7 years with left side radiation now “looking forward” to upcoming heart valve repair/replacement. Yes, it happens.


  2. I had a heart health check up this fall after reading about heart damage from the chemo I received for breast cancer in 2004. Sure enough I have found out I have had heart damage and a heart attack, which I was not aware of. I have had strange feelings in my legs and feet since early 2005, no one could figure out why. I was diagnosed with LBB before the surgery. In 2002, my heart was just fine.


  3. Oh, great. As if we don’t already have enough to worry about just surviving breast cancer treatment. Thanks for ruining my day! 😉


  4. If this is so, then women with breast cancer ought to be more cautious with their diet and have regular exercise to lower the risks of developing heart disease. I myself do an hour of brisk walking everyday plus eat a couple of apples right before sunrise. Not only is exercise and fruit good for the heart, but it also helps me with my mood swings!


    1. Absolutely right, as Dr. Bardia says above: “…risk reduction strategies common to cardiology and oncology, such as physical activity, may help avoid both hazards.” Two apples just before sunrise – sounds great! Thanks, April.


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