According to a new study, women who have survived breast cancer may be at an increased risk of developing heart disease. The study was led byÂ Erin Bowles, a renownedÂ epidemiologistÂ with Group Health Research Institute. Bowles evaluates cancer from a number of different angles to get a more thorough understanding of the long-term implications it rises.
How Breast Cancer Affects other Aspects of Health
Bowles and her team studied 12,000 women to understand how breast cancer affects other aspects of their health. Â The data came from eight health care systems and covered women who suffered a wide range of health conditions in addition to breast cancer.Â The study concluded that women who survived breast cancer were 20% more likely to develop heart disease than women who never developed the condition.
Breast Cancer and Heart Disease Risk
Bowles can’t say for sure why breast cancer survivors are at a greater risk of developing heart disease. She believes that anti-cancer drugs play a key role. These drugs have been found to be very effective at treating cancer. However, these drugs are extremely potent and place a lot of stress on the heart and nervous system. The drugs are clearly intended to target tumors, but developers can’t always control how they will impact the rest of the body. The drugs need to be metabolized through the entire body and many of the toxins will inevitably make their way to the heart.
Clinical trial studies have already found that certain people are at an increased risk of developing heart disease. However, those findings suggested that medications used to treat breast cancer raised the risk of heart disease by only 4%. The findings from this new study were surprising to many people.
One of the limitations of the clinical trials is that they generally focus on cancer patients who live a healthy lifestyle and are in otherwise good physical condition. The sample size is small and isn’t always representative of the overall population. Bowles and her researchers focused on patients who had a number of health conditions in addition to breast cancer. They feel that their sample group is a more accurate reflection of the overall population.
The data they observed covered patients who were treated between 1999 and 2007. Breast cancer patients were treated with one of two drugs, each of which affects patients in a different way. Both classes of drugs were found to raise the risk of developing heart disease. However, patients were at a much higher risk when they took both drugs together.
Fighting Cancer and Heart Disease in Women
Medical professionals are trying to fight both breast cancer and heart disease in women. They suggest that women ask their health care providers what heart exams may be appropriate before, during and after they undergo treatment for any type of cancer. Experts also suggest patients monitor their own symptoms and discuss any concerns with their doctors if they feel they are at risk of developing heart disease during treatment.