Breast Cancer Linked to Higher Odds for Dangerous A-Fib

By Denise Mann
Health Day reporter

TUESDAY, November 16, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Women with breast cancer are known to have treatment-related heart problems, and now a new study shows their chances of developing an abnormal heart rhythm known as fibrillation atrial (a-fib) may increase following a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Women who develop a-fib within one month of being diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to die from heart or vascular problems within a year, the new research suggests.

A-fib occurs when the upper chambers of the heart shake chaotically, causing a fast and irregular heartbeat. Symptoms may include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, and / or extreme fatigue. When not diagnosed or treated, a-fib greatly increases the risk of stroke and heart failure.

The exact reason why these two conditions travel together is not yet fully understood.

“Traditional risk factors such as age, cardiovascular risk factors remain a-fib risk factors after a breast cancer diagnosis,” said study author Dr Avirup Guha , assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. But “surgery, chemotherapy, inflammation, and imbalances in the body’s normal processes caused by cancer may be involved,” he said.

Stress can also contribute to a-fib, and the emotional stress that often accompanies a new diagnosis of breast cancer may play a role, but researchers did not look at stress in this study.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 85,000 women aged 66 or older who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2007 and 2014. These women, along with their cancer-free counterparts, were followed. for a year to see who developed a- lie.

The incidence of women with breast cancer who developed new a-fib was 3.9%, and that risk peaked within two months of their diagnosis. In contrast, only 1.8% of women without breast cancer developed a-fib within a year of follow-up.

Women with more advanced breast cancer had a higher risk of developing a-fib, regardless of their treatment plan, the study showed.

A-fib was also more common in women who had complex surgeries such as a mastectomy.

There was no increased risk of death within a year of being diagnosed with breast cancer for the women in the study who first had fib, possibly because they were already seeing a breast cancer patient. cardiologist, Guha noted.

More research is needed to determine whether prescribing heart medication to all new patients with breast cancer may reduce the risk of a-fib and death, and / or whether all people with breast cancer newly diagnosed breast cancer should be monitored to rule out this dangerous heartbeat.

The study had its limits. The results may not apply to younger women. Also, the follow-up was only one year, and chronic heart problems caused by radiation therapy tend to show up much later.

The results were published on November 14 in the European Journal of the Heart.

External experts point out that people with breast cancer are known to be at higher risk for heart problems.

“Breast cancer and cardiovascular disease are known to share several common risk factors, and ongoing work further expands our current knowledge base by highlighting the increased incidence of atrial fibrillation in patients with a. breast cancer, ”said Dr Anthony Yu, cardiologist at Memorial Sloan. Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

“Optimization of cardiovascular risk factors and management of pre-existing or newly diagnosed cardiovascular disease should be a priority for breast cancer patients and can help improve overall clinical outcomes,” said Yu.

Breast cancer patients undergoing treatment are already screened for declining heart function as this is a well-known side effect, added Dr Aeshita Dwivedi, cardiologist at Lenox Hospital. Hill in New York.

“Patients with breast cancer tend to develop risk factors that can cause atrial fibrillation, such as high blood pressure or heart failure,” she said. “Plus, treatment for breast cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, all increases your risk of developing conditions that result in atrial fibrillation.”

Breast cancer and its treatments can lead to inflammation and silent damage to the heart muscle, which can also increase the risk of heart disease and a-fib, Dwivedi said.

These results “generate hypotheses and may alert clinicians to maintain increased awareness of the link between these two conditions and to be more proactive in assessing these patients, especially if they are symptomatic,” she said. declared.

Yet, it is too early to make general recommendations on how and when to screen these women. “Further studies are needed to better understand the mechanism of this association and to assess the need to regularly screen breast cancer patients for atrial fibrillation,” said Dwivedi.

More information

Learn more about the symptoms of a-fib at the American Heart Association.

SOURCES: Avirup Guha, MD, assistant professor, medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland; Anthony Yu, MD, cardiologist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York; Aeshita Dwivedi, MD, cardiologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York; European Heart Journal, November 14, 2021

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