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How Breast Cancer Can Increase Heart Disease Risk

It’s common knowledge that therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation have saved the lives of millions over the years. In fact, it’s likely you even know someone who’s benefited from these treatments. If you’ve supported a friend or loved one through a cancer journey, you know the side effects most often associated with cancer. These are the side effects you see during treatment, read about, and hear about — things like burns, hair loss, nausea, and weight loss.

But what you may not know — and what isn’t talked about much — are the residual side effects a cancer survivor may face after treatment. Unfortunately, the same therapies that can save your life may also put you at risk for other serious health problems, like heart disease. It’s important to know these risks so you can help protect yourself or a loved one.

Minimizing Treatment Effects

Since your care team will be at your side for every step of your cancer journey — from diagnosis through treatment and beyond — make them your most trusted resource. With their help, there are many steps you can take to help minimize the effects of your chemotherapy and radiation treatments. This may include things like delivering chemotherapy slowly instead of in one dose or using beta-blockers (a type of blood pressure medication) to reduce the toxic effects.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Heart

To minimize the effects of chemo and radiation on your heart during and after breast cancer treatment, maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle as much as possible. This includes:

  • Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Getting 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily
  • Managing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels

Because women have some different symptoms of heart attack than men, it’s important to know them. Symptoms can include chest pain, shortness of breath or tightness in the chest, and also:

  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea or indigestion
  • Pressure between the shoulder blades
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weakness or extreme fatigue

Ask if your care team has a doctor who specializes in early detection and management of heart disease in cancer patients throughout all stages of cancer therapy and survivorship. And consider scheduling an appointment with a cardio-oncologist.

If you’re facing a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s likely your treatment will include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. Cardio-oncologists are ready to provide specialized evaluation and treatment throughout your breast cancer diagnosis and treatment to help protect your whole health.

Originally published by AdventHealth; reprinted with permission.

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