About 12 percent of breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy drugs develop heart failure within three years after cancer treatment, but only a third saw a cardiologist within 90 days of the onset of symptoms, according to a new study. The research was presented at the American Cancer Society meeting in Baltimore.
The study involved data from about 8,400 breast cancer patients age 65 and older who were treated either with chemotherapy drugs called anthracyclines, or a targeted therapy trastuzumab. Both drugs have been previously linked to heart problems. Researchers said that patients who saw a cardiologist were more likely to be given standard medication to treat their heart condition than breast cancer patients who did not see a heart specialist.
“This suggests that this is an important area for oncologists and cardiologists to collaborate,” said Dr. Jersey Chen, a research scientist and cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente in Rockville, Md., and lead author of the study.
Anthracyclines is also used to treat leukemias, lymphomas, and uterine, ovarian and lung cancers. Trastuzumab also treats stomach and esophagogastric cancers. Researchers stressed the importance for patients starting these therapies to be made aware of the heart risks associated with the drugs, and to be advised to seek medical attention immediately if they develop symptoms of heart failure. Signs of heart failure include shortness of breath and swelling in the feet or legs.