It’s a difficult possibility to comprehend: all that work to fight and win against one of the scariest cancers in existence, and now there’s a lower life expectancy because of heart disease? Scientists say that medically combating breast cancer is a delicate balance of treatments, some of which are dangerous. New studies indicate that some of a woman’s options may result in complications at some point down the road.
Here’s the good news: research and development has tipped the scales in favor of survival. If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, you’re more likely to survive than you are to succumb to it.
Unfortunately for postmenopausal women who have breast cancer (that’s a pretty big demographic as far as breast cancer patients are concerned), they’re more likely to develop heart disease, which is already ahead of cancer in terms of being the leading cause of death for women who are postmenopausal. Part of the reason is the radiation exposure that often occurs during breast cancer treatment.
Those who are exposed to radiation as part of their treatment are likely to experience these disastrous side effects up to thirty years later, and in as little as five.
But that’s not all.
Postmenopausal breast cancer survivors are also more likely to experience diabetes, atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, abdominal obesity, and hypertriglyceridemia. All of these are additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Executive Director Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton says, “Heart disease appears more commonly in women treated for breast cancer because of the toxicities of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and use of aromatase inhibitors, which lower estrogen. Heart-healthy lifestyle modifications will decrease both the risk of recurrent breast cancer and the risk of developing heart disease…Women should schedule a cardiology consultation when breast cancer is diagnosed and continue with ongoing follow-up after cancer treatments are completed.”
Both diseases are more likely among individuals who are obese or smoke. Those who are at risk due to these factors should make eliminating them an important part of daily routine.
For these reasons, it is important for women to ensure that routine breast cancer screenings are conducted. Women should continue to speak to health care providers about the best potential breast cancer treatment when diagnosed, and ask about those that have a detrimental effect on health in the future. For some, there are alternative treatments without so many of the adverse impacts on health.
A decade from now, it’s possible that we’ll be able to cure or eliminate breast cancer through cutting edge immunotherapies!