Breast cancer and lymphoma patients and survivors are 3.6 times more likely to develop heart failure than patients who did not have cancer, a study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic shows.
The study, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session, held March 10-12 in Orlando, Florida, shows that the risk increases within the first year after cancer diagnosis and persists for over 20 years.
Heart failure, a condition characterized by shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, swelling, and irregular heartbeat, among other symptoms, may occur in some cancer patients and survivors after receiving treatment for their condition.
“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,” Carolyn Larsen, MD, a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic and lead author of the study, said in a press release.
Researchers examined the clinical records of 900 breast cancer and lymphoma patients, and 1,550 matched non-cancer patients from Olmsted County in Minnesota. All records were collected between 1985 and 2010 as part of the Rochester Epidemiology Project.
The analysis was focused on cancer patients who were likely treated with a class of chemotherapy agents called anthracycline, which are known to increase the chances of heart damage by changing the genetic content of heart muscle cells.
During the 8.5-year follow-up period, for every 100 cancer patients, about seven developed heart failure.
Cancer patients were 3.65 times more likely to develop new onset congestive heart failure compared to controls. Even 20 years after their diagnosis, the risk was still twice as high as non-cancer controls.
The team also found that patients who received high doses of chemotherapy and those who were diabetic had even greater risks of heart problems.
“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. “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,” she added.