Breast cancer treatments can raise risk of heart disease, American Heart Association warns

February 2018 - The American Heart Association issued a stark warning Thursday for women with breast cancer: Lifesaving therapies like chemotherapy and radiation can cause heart failure and other serious cardiac problems, sometimes years after treatment.

The organization said patients and doctors shouldn’t avoid the treatments but instead take steps to prevent or minimize the cardiac risks. It stressed that breast cancer survivors can improve their chances of a long, healthy life by exercising regularly and sticking to a healthy diet.

The cautionary message, published online Thursday in the journal Circulation, came in the organization’s first comprehensive scientific statement on the complex interactions between breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. While much of the information is known to oncologists, the report could be a helpful reference tool for patients as well as primary care, emergency room and other doctors who treat breast cancer patients.

In many ways, the AHA statement is trying to change the mind-set of women diagnosed with breast cancer who consider it the biggest threat to their health. It noted that breast cancer survivors who are 65 and older and were treated for their cancer are more likely to die of cardiovascular problems than breast cancer.

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