Breast cancer treatment may trigger heart problems, study says

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While chemotherapy and radiation are meant to treat cancer, the therapies may actually be causing more harm than good. The treatments could be damaging to the heart, according to a new report.

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The American Heart Association issued a warning Thursday morning to caution women about the risk of breast cancer treatments.

"We want patients to get the best treatment for their breast cancer," Laxmi Mehta, a women's heart health expert at Ohio State University who led the panel that issued the statement, told AP. "Everyone should have a conversation with their doctor about what are the side effects."

Researchers said radiation can cause narrowing or blockage in the arteries. Herceptin and other drugs for breast cancer can also cause heart failure or even heart attack. Furthermore, some patients have experienced abnormal rhythms or valve problems. And for many, symptoms did not appear until long after treatments ended.

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"Most people with breast cancer fear death from breast cancer. Even after they survive that, they still fear it," Mehta said. However, she said heart disease is more likely to kill them.

Although scientists believe patients and doctors should not avoid these treatments, they do think preventative measures should be taken to minimize cardiac issues.

They recommend that physicians slow down or alter therapy if heart failure does develop during breast cancer treatment. They also suggest generic forms of chemotherapies as they could minimize the damage. Additionally,  doctors should be monitoring patients’ hearts before, during and after therapy.

There are more than 3 million breast cancer survivors and 48 million women have heart disease in the United States. Researchers are hoping their findings will improve the lives of those suffering from those conditions.

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