Heart Health After Breast Cancer Treatment

In Breast Cancer, Dealing with Medical Industry Issues by Barbara Jacoby

When one finds themself in the middle of a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment with chemotherapy, radiation and other therapies, the last thing on their mind at that time is the long-term effects that such therapies will have. Therefore, I wanted to address the growing concern with regard to heart issues that are a side effect that has basically been ignored.

“It becomes increasingly important for a patient to know about their treatments and their side effects and to report any changes in health or outcomes immediately to their doctors.”Barbara Jacoby

In the past, it was not seen as a concern. But as breast cancer patients are living longer, there are a whole new host of health problems to face and one of the major ones is those dealing with the heart. With a greater number of survivors, there is now more attention and research being given to the toxic effects of the various treatments, how they are affecting the heart and what can be done to promote heart health after breast cancer treatment.

In an article that I read, it is believed that if certain changes are incorporated into treatments, then heart disease might be deterred. As always, it is incumbent upon a patient to do everything possible to be aware of heart disease symptoms and raise any questions and/or issues with their oncologist. Since the symptoms can be subtle, it is not always apparent to doctors and other health professionals to consider heart disease when evaluating those patients who otherwise seem healthy.

The good news is that as new drugs and therapies become available, the FDA is becoming more focused on this issue and taking a much closer look at the safety of these treatments in allowing them to go to (or continue on) the market. In addition, radiation oncologists have been developing new methods of delivering treatment. For example, BioZorb™, a three dimensional bio absorbable surgical marker helps physicians track the tumor site after lumpectomy surgery to remove cancer and deliver more precise radiation treatment.

Another new treatment that one might consider when receiving radiation in conjunction with a lumpectomy is Intraoperative Electron Radiation Therapy & Oncoplastic Reconstruction (IORT). While the underlying breast tissue is still exposed, a single, high dose of radiation is given directly to the area where the cancer was. IORT shortens the course of post-operative radiation by seven to 10 days by delivering the targeted boost dose prior to, rather than after, traditional treatments. Both of these factors have a significant benefit with regard to less trauma to both the heart and surrounding areas.

With new targeted therapies in the delivery of radiation such as these, more patients will now have the opportunity to receive the treatments that they need while mitigating the effects on the heart and the rest of the circulatory system. Research is being done that continues to find ways to do a better job of treating the cancer itself with the hope that the targeting effects will eliminate the cancers at their specific locations so that not only with the cancers not spread but also that the treatment will not do collateral damage.

As each new drug and treatment is brought to the market, new vigilance is needed in order to assure that the treatment will not end up causing more harm than the original disease. In addition, it becomes increasingly important for a patient to know about their treatments and their side effects and to report any changes in health or outcomes immediately to their doctors. Hopefully, such reporting will grow the shared database of information about every drug and treatment in use so that better monitoring will be the ultimate outcome and the creation of such collateral damage like heart health problems can be ultimately eliminated