Interactive tool 'boosts knowledge of breast cancer treatment options'

Phillip Cunningham
February 2, 2018

"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", said Indian-origin Laxmi Mehta, Associate Professor at The Ohio State University in the US.

Mehta adds that this statement does not aim to discourage patients from agreeing to breast cancer therapies but help them make informed decisions regarding the best treatment for them.

Prompting attention to the fact that during treatment not only one's breast health but also general health, including that of the heart, should be considered, the researchers suggested.

HER-2 and other breast cancers use targeted therapies which could weaken the heart muscle - a condition known as heart failure, it said.

She needed a stent to open her blocked artery, which was likely caused by her cancer treatment. "But there are side effects from these cancer treatments, and we're trying to recognize it in the very early phases so that we may be able to mitigate the heart effects and avoid significant heart damage".

A cancer diagnosis is overwhelming, and it's not easy to follow that news with warnings of CVD. Additionally, the drug dexrazoxane is approved for minimizing heart damage in patients with metastatic breast cancer treated with high doses of doxorubicin. Studies have shown that when doxorubicin is administered slowly, rather than all at once, patients may have a lower risk of heart failure. She added that oncologists for years have been closely monitoring patients who are on toxic drugs like Herceptin, which is used to treat patients with HER2-positive breast cancer. Some breast cancer treatment agents, such as anthracyclines, can result in abnormal heart rhythms that in some patients are benign but in others can lead to life-threatening heart rhythms. Despite improvements in technology and delivery techniques, "irradiation to smaller volumes of the heart results in cardiac perfusion defects", the AHA panel stated.

Whilst welcoming advances in breast cancer treatment, Prostate Cancer UK said that levels of funding for prostate cancer had been significantly lower, meaning efforts to tackle the disease are trailing behind.

Those most are risk of developing the disease are men over 49 years old, and men of African-Caribbean or African descent. CVD poses a greater mortality risk for older women than breast cancer. That's why the America Heart Association has published the first scientific statement about these two major threats to women's health.

Breast cancer patients, particularly older patients, are more likely to die of CVD than breast cancer, and patients may benefit from management strategies that weigh the cancer benefits versus heart risks, authors of the statement wrote in Circulation. She said that a breast cancer patient who goes through chemo for three or four months loses 30 percent of her fitness, gains 10 pounds and ages the equivalent of 20 years. Dr. Susan Gilchrist, a cardiologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center who runs the only USA program for women's heart health after cancer, said she would treat hypertension, obesity, and other risk factors even more aggressively in a patient who had received doxorubicin, for instance. Gilchrist's Healthy Heart program is created to counteract those effects by encouraging women to exercise and eat healthy foods.

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