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Link Between Breast Cancer Therapies and Heart Disease : Risks and Precautions

There is a growing concern about heart disease following breast cancer therapies. The American Heart Association has addressed this concern in a scientific statement. (1) As we read further, we can get to know more about how heart disease and breast cancer treatments are connected.

Heart Disease Following Breast Cancer Therapies: An Introduction

Patients undergoing breast cancer treatments often manifest symptoms associated with heart disease, including heart failure, arrhythmia, and ischemic heart disease. A recent study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has indicated that women who receive specific common therapies for breast cancer can be at a growing risk for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and specific other cardiovascular events, and death.(2)

Presently, around 80 percent of patients with breast cancer survive for at least 10 years and many also live longer. However, there are concerns related to therapy-associated late adverse health impacts, including cardiovascular health problems.(3)

Common adjuvant therapies in breast cancer treatment have been associated with a heightened risk of conditions like heart failure, arrhythmias, and ischemic heart disease.(4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) However, this specific evidence comes mostly from studies that focused on specific subgroups of breast cancer patients based on their age, cancer stage, or their treatment regimen.

Heart Disease Following Different Breast Cancer Therapies 

Chemotherapy and Heart Disease

Chemotherapy drugs used for treating breast cancers can put you at risk of heart disease. (11) There are several types of chemotherapy. However, the most common and effective one is the anthracycline doxorubicin. While anthracycline doxorubicin is effective for treating breast cancer, anthracyclines can result in irreversible damage to the heart.

Murmurs and other heart rhythm issues are a couple of temporary heart problems associated with chemotherapy. Fortunately, chemotherapy does not seem to increase the risk of long-term heart disease in women. The risks associated with chemotherapy, end when the treatment comes to an end.

Radiation Therapy and Heart Disease

Risks of long-term heart disease are more of a concern for women who are being treated with radiation therapy. This is especially a big concern for women with cancer in their left breast, which is closer to the heart.

Specific studies have found a growing incidence of mortality occurring because of heart disease in women who were subjected to radiation therapies.(12, 13)

However, the good news is that for women who are being treated with radiation now, the risk of long-term heart damage is quite lower than earlier. Since earlier times, radiation technology has changed significantly, and now doctors are careful about minimizing how much radiation the heart receives so that there is a reduced level of risk of heart disease, associated with breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.


Since there are risks of developing various heart diseases after breast cancer therapies, it is essential for proper planning of these therapies. However, it must be mentioned here that the benefits of breast cancer treatments outweigh the risk of heart disease. Women undergoing breast cancer therapies should consult with their healthcare providers and discuss the possible risks associated with their treatments and also take all essential precautions to prevent the risks under the supervision of their doctors.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 23, 2023

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