Chemotherapy is the conventional treatment for breast cancer that has saved millions of lives globally. However, it might pose increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like stroke in breast cancer survivors. The American Heart Association (AHA) has warned doctors about the risks that chemotherapy can induce in women treated for breast cancer. This study is the first to describe a link between breast cancer and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. The main reasons for increased risk of cardiovascular diseases are sedentary lifestyle, exposure to radiation and chemotherapy treatments, metabolic dysfunction, weight gain, uncontrolled cholesterol or hypertension after breast cancer treatment.
Doxorubicin, an anthracycline, is a chemotherapy drug that significantly increases risk of heart failure by around 5 percent after its 8 sessions and up to 48 percent after 14 such sessions.
The warning was issued by Dr. Laxmi Mehta, chairperson of AHA writing committee. She does not discourage women from having their breast cancer treated but warns them to be well informed about the increased risk of heart diseases after completion of their cancer treatment. This would encourage them to make responsible decisions for their cancer treatment.
AHA emphasizes that breast cancer patients must discuss with their doctors about any side-effects of cancer treatment because most of the breast cancer survivors above 65 years of age are at higher risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases rather than dying from breast cancer.
However, a cancer survivor can modify her risk factors, thereby reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Following a healthy lifestyle, consuming well balanced meals, and indulging in physical activities can help a breast cancer survivor to significantly decrease her risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.