And it stressed that breast cancer survivors can improve their chances of a long, healthy life by exercising regularly and sticking to a healthy diet.
The researchers enrolled 537 patients with newly diagnosed early-stage breast cancer on the study.
Most women fear breast cancer more than any other health problem, but heart disease is by far the No. 1 killer of women, CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reports. CVD poses a greater mortality risk for older women than breast cancer.
"Oncologists may tell women about potential risks, but patients are getting so much information they may not remember", Seattle-based primary care internist Mary Ann Bauman, MD, said in an AHA release.
Statement author and cardiologist Dr. Laxmi Mehta and colleagues wrote that cancer treatment can result in a wide range of heart damage, including left ventricular systolic dysfunction; overt heart failure; hypertension; arrhythmias; myocardial ischemia; valvular disease; thromboembolic disease; pulmonary hypertension; and pericarditis.
For example, some cancer treatments, such as HER-2 targeted therapies, can weaken heart muscle, a condition known as heart failure.
With this in mind, the AHA stresses the importance of closely monitoring heart function all throughout the treatment and after. Patients and their doctors should consider heart risks when deciding which treatment to pursue, she said.
"Some of the medications that are being used to treat breast cancer can ultimately end in cardiac disease", she said. As patients undergo cancer treatments - she monitors their heart health.
Changes in clinical practice may also reduce the risk of CVD for patients with breast cancer. For some patients, however, heart damage may be permanent.
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Despite prostate cancer overtaking breast cancer to become the third biggest cancer killer, the shift does not represent a worsening situation for those with the disease.
Dolly Brenneman, a 65-year-old executive and life coach, was one of Gilchrist's patients. Beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, most children with the blood cancer were cured by aggressive treatment that involved chemo and sometimes radiation. "Let's give these drugs and treatments to people who need them - the risk-benefit is more favorable - and let's do all we can to determine who is unlikely to benefit from the drugs and spare them the risks". "With the evolving intersection of the cardiovascular and oncologic fields, comprehensive care is an essential element in the management of cancer patients to maximize gains in cancer treatment while minimizing the potential deleterious impact on cardiovascular health". For instance, the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin can damage heart cells, but studies have found that when doxorubicin is administered slowly, rather than all at once, the risk of heart failure may be reduced. And, some treatments - like antimetabolites - can cause spasm of the heart arteries, which can cause chest pain symptoms but could lead to heart attacks as well.
Other treatments, such as radiation, can affect the heart arteries and cause the development of coronary artery disease or blockages.
Neelima Denduluri, a medical oncologist in Arlington, Virginia, said that increasingly doctors are tailoring treatments to the individual and that doctors don't have to choose between life-saving cancer therapies and cardio health.