In the very first scientific statement from the American Heart Association connecting breast cancer and heart disease, several overlapping risk factors were announced.
As we know, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) continues to be classified as the #1 killer of women among all illnesses. Unfortunately, many women mistakenly believe that breast cancer is the worst threat to their lives.
The research, however, makes the point clear: It’s time to start connecting Breast Cancer and Heart Disease.
These two conditions are significant causes of **morbidity and **mortality in the United States.
**Morbidity means a diseased state, disability, or poor health.
**Mortality rate is a measure of the number of deaths in a given population.
- Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) affects approximately 48 million women, and breast cancer affects close to 3.5 million.
- These two conditions have several overlapping risk factors, the major ones being obesity and smoking. By now, this should come as no surprise.
However, women need to be informed that the current treatments available for breast cancer (which can include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and targeted therapy), can have a negative impact on their heart health.
Among the complications from breast cancer treatment are Left Ventricular Dysfunction, which leads to Heart Failure.
➡ Some cancer treatments can also cause accelerated Cardiovascular Disease, which may influence their doctor’s decision on the type of cancer treatment to use.
➡ For women who have a pre-existing heart condition, it could change the whole approach to how aggressively the cancer is treated.
The great improvements medicine has made in early detection and treatment of breast cancer have led to an increasing number of breast cancer survivors. But the survivors face the risk of long-term cardiac complications from the very treatments on which they’ve relied.
An even greater risk of death from CVD threatens older women in particular. More so than breast cancer.
- In older, postmenopausal women, the risk of death due to CVD is higher in breast cancer survivors than in women without a history of breast cancer.
➡ This greater risk manifests itself approximately 7 years after the diagnosis of breast cancer.
This emphasizes the need for early recognition and treatment of the risk factors during this time frame to reduce the additional burden of Cardiovascular Disease.
The risks of Cardiovascular Disease, such as Heart Failure, myocardial ischemia (an inadequate blood supply to the heart) and high blood pressure (hypertension) is very high.
In addition, development of CVD risk factors such as obesity and dyslipidemia – an abnormal amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood – is higher in older breast cancer survivors than the risk of the cancer tumor returning.
Sadly, despite the national publicity with media campaigns (such as the Red Dress and Pink Ribbon campaigns), women continue to be misinformed, or, (unfortunately) disinterested in understanding the common risk factors associated with these 2 conditions.
Maybe we’re too busy. Maybe we’re not interested in scientific data. But we need to change our minds if we want to survive.
Even though we tend to see cardiology and oncology as separate medical fields, they’re frequently intertwined. Multidisciplinary care is critical in the management of cancer patients.
➡ The Cancer outcomes themselves can be influenced by cardiovascular health
➡ Cardiovascular health can affect cancer treatment selection, and Cancer care itself can impact ongoing cancer treatment.
Finally, the bottom line is that the effects of Cardiovascular Disease from cancer treatment can change the chances of survival for women.
➡ Many of the similarities in risk factors such as age, tobacco use, diet, obesity, and sedentary lifestyles are increased in long-term cancer survivors.
➡ In addition, with advancements in cancer care, survivors could develop cardiac effects due to the cancer treatment itself.
And yet, any discussion of CVD prevention and modification of these risk factors during and after cancer treatment has been limited. But we’re working on it…
➡ The field of cardio-oncology has emerged in response to the need to provide the best cancer care without compromising cardiovascular health.
➡ Recent publications include a consensus statement regarding the training of future cardio-oncologists and guidelines regarding the monitoring and prevention of left ventricular (LV) dysfunction in adult cancer survivors.
➡ Hospitals have been developing collaborative cardio-oncology programs to meet rising clinical demands in the field.
What can YOU do to protect yourself?
➡ Physical Activity and control of your diet are once again (still) at the top of the list. We cannot continue to ignore this for any reason.
➡ The American Heart Association recommends that all Americans get about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. This information is hammered in, yet many continue to ignore it, citing many invalid reasons.
Right now, only 17.6% of American women meet these physical activity guidelines.
Strong evidence supports the higher risk that a sedentary lifestyle poses for both Cardiovascular Disease AND breast cancer.
➡ Studies of premenopausal and postmenopausal women who are more active (vs those who are less active) have consistently shown that moderate to vigorous physical activity is associated with a decreased breast cancer risk among both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.
➡ Sedentary behavior has also been associated with high breast density, which has been shown to be a strong, independent risk factor for breast cancer. There is a 4- to 6-fold increased risk compared with the least dense breasts.
Even independent of one another, sedentary behavior and physical inactivity are risk factors for breast cancer among white women.
➡ Obesity, Overweight, and Body Mass Index
Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for CVD. In addition, lifetime obesity and physical inactivity increase the risk of CVD.
The relationship between obesity and breast cancer is complex.
An analysis found that each 5-kg (12 pounds) increase in adult weight gain was associated with an 11% increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer among women who had not been prescribed hormone replacement therapy.
So…Startling but verified findings. No time for hand holding here. The information is readily available and the steps for prevention are all over this website.
Please stay informed, and I’m here to help if you have any questions.
Value yourself enough to manage your health. Give it all you’ve got.