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Do Breast Cancer Therapies Increase the Risk of Heart-Related Deaths?

Breast cancer survival rates have improved over time, but the adverse outcomes of treatment to the heart remain a concern. A U.S.-based registry study shows that although treatments for breast cancer can cause damage to the heart, the patients who undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy are not likely to die of heart disease. Regular screenings and proper risk management for heart issues in patients with breast cancer can reduce the risk of heart diseases.

According to clinical trials conducted before, both radiotherapy and chemotherapy are associated with the risk of heart disease as a possible side effect. However, after the analysis of about 350,000 breast cancer patients relative to the population across the U.S., the comparison showed that long-term risk of death from heart disease is not high compared with the average population of women.

This concluded that:

• Proper risk management in hospitals, if taken into account when choosing adequate therapy, can reduce the probability of heart attack. Assessing the heart health of the patient regularly throughout the course of the treatment will allow early detection of any potential adverse effects and help oncologists to adjust the therapy and include heart treatment immediately.

• The heart-specific mortality rate of breast cancer patients who are treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy was lower compared with the general population. It is a relief for affected patients that if they undergo proper medical care and survive breast cancer, they will not have to worry about deadly heart diseases than other individuals of the same age without breast cancer.

• Improved screening measures and effective methods of treatment can lower the risk of succumbing to heart disease considerably.

However, the results above have to be carefully interpreted because of the characteristics of diagnosis at a younger age, higher grading, higher stage, and the molecular subtype status. HER2-positive breast cancer patients who receive targeted chemotherapy had a lower risk of heart-specific mortality rate relative to HER2 negative patients.

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