As with any medications and medical treatments, adverse effects are often involved. According to a recent study, breast cancer patients who have undergone radiation therapy have a slightly higher risk of developing ischemic heart disease. Of course, the researchers from Oxford University, England, The Karolinska Institute, Sweden and Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark, involved 2,200 female patients between 1958 and 2001 but did not include any men.
Ischemic heart disease is characterized when there is restriction in the blood supply to tissue of the heart muscle. Of the general population, ischemia is more common among men, people with close relatives with ischemic heart disease, individuals with high cholesterol levels, regular smokers, diabetes, and/or hypertension (high blood pressure). The risk of developing ischemic heart disease is higher with receiving radiation therapy when these other health factors exist.
The researchers used data from radiotherapy charts and medical records to approximate the mean radiation dosage to the heart. In addition, they examined data of each woman’s heart disease risk factors as well as their medical histories.
The team found a clear association between the radiation dose and ischemic heart disease later in life, although they feel that it is still small. If you received or need to receive radiation therapy and your risks include angina, chronic obstructive lung disorder, diabetes, obesity, smoker or other heart disease, speak with your doctor to see how you can support or make changes to your overall health.
The researchers agree the risk peaked during the first ten years after therapy and then dropped but did still remain higher than normal for at least twenty years. This information does not mean that every breast cancer patient has a higher risk of heart disease. A 50-year-old patient who received a 3 Gy heart dose during radiotherapy has a 2.4% chance of dying from ischemic heart disease before she is 80, compared to 1.9% among breast cancer patients of the same age who had no radiation.
This study will hopefully help doctors determine the best ways to treat breast cancer patients for radiation therapy. The International Journal of Radiation Oncology/Biology/Physics in May of 2007 published a study finding that older breast cancer patients with early stage disease who underwent radiation therapy had no increased risk of a heart attack.
As in any treatment, it’s important to determine if the risk outweigh the benefits. Hopefully this information will assist all genders.
Happy Valentine’s Day! If you love someone, you’ll check their breast (yes men do have breast) or remind them to do a self-breast exam (see our brochure on the web site for details on how to perform a self breast examination)
Modah Ani- I Am Thankful
Editor; Vicki Singer Wolf, Co-founder