Heart failure risk increases for breast cancer, lymphoma survivors

By Allen Cone  |  Updated Feb. 28, 2018 at 1:29 PM
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Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Breast cancer and lymphoma patients are up to three times more likely to develop congestive heart failure than those without the cancer, researchers at Mayo Clinic said on Wednesday.

The findings will be presented March 10 at the American College of Cardiology's 67th Annual Scientific Session in Orlando, Fla.

The researchers found cancer patients were three times as likely to develop heart failure within five years of their diagnosis. The risk continued 20 years after they completed their cancer treatment, when they were twice as likely to develop the condition -- 10.1 percent for the cancer group vs. 5.7 percent in the control group.

During a median follow-up of 8.5 years after surgery, 7 of every 100 breast cancer patients developed heart failure, the researchers report

"The majority of patients do not develop heart failure, but our research helps us recognize the factors associated with it and the importance of appropriate heart care following cancer treatment," Dr. Carolyn Larsen, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, said in a press release.

Researchers tracked data collected as part of the Rochester Epidemiology Project from 1985 to 2010, which included 900 breast cancer and lymphoma patients and 1,550 participants who had not had cancer from Olmsted County in Minnesota. Studied were age, gender and heart disease risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

At the greatest risk were cancer patients who also had diabetes or were treated with high doses of anthracyclines, a type of chemotherapy.

"We discovered that diabetes also was a strong risk factor, but we don't know what happens in the body that makes heart failure more likely in these patients," said Dr. Hector Villarraga, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.

Larsen recommends that, after treatment, breast cancer and lymphoma patients should be screened annually for signs and symptoms of heart failure.

Those signs and symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, feelings of weakness, swelling in the legs or abdomen, irregular heartbeat, rapid weight gain, and pressure or heaviness in the chest while lying flat.

"Our research suggests that periodic cardiac imaging to monitor for heart damage may be needed for some cancer patients even if they have no signs of heart damage initially after chemotherapy," Larsen said. "Additionally, it emphasizes that working to live a heart-healthy lifestyle is important for cancer patients and survivors to reduce the overall risk of heart disease."

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