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Some Breast Cancer Patients Develop Drug-Related Heart Failure

Update Date: Jun 04, 2014 10:49 AM EDT

Even though chemotherapy is an effective treatment for breast cancer, some patients can develop drug-linked heart failure. According to a new study, researchers found that many older patients who develop cardiovascular problems do not get the proper treatments for their conditions.

"The majority of older women who develop heart problems after their breast cancer therapy aren't treated by a cardiologist, and they had lower quality of care," the study's lead author Dr. Jersey Chen, a research scientist and cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente in Rockville, Md., said reported by Philly.

In this study, the researchers examined data on 8,400 breast cancer patients who were on Medicare. The patients were all older than 65 and had been treated with chemotherapy drugs, anthracyclines or a targeted therapy known as trastuzumab. Both forms of medications have been previously tied to heart problems.

The researchers found that within the three years after receiving treatment, 12 percent of the patients had developed heart failure. However, only one-third of these patients had gone to a cardiologist within the first 90 days of developing symptoms. Those who sought medical care were more likely to receive treatments for their heart condition. The researchers stressed the importance for patients and doctors to be aware of the heart risks involved in taking these types of medications.

"This suggests that this is an important area for oncologists and cardiologists to collaborate," Chen stated.

Chen added that some of the symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, and swelling in the legs or feet. Breast cancer patients who experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately and particularly from doctors who have experience with treating patients who had undergone cancer therapy.

The findings were presented at an American Heart Association Meeting located in Baltimore, MD.

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