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Heart failure risk found to be higher for breast cancer and lymphoma survivors

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Patients who were treated for breast cancer or lymphoma are more than three times at risk for developing congestive heart failure, compared with other women, according to US researchers.

The risk of increased heart failure occurred as early as one year after cancer diagnosis, but continued 20 years after patients completed cancer treatment, the Mayo Clinic researchers found.

“Periodic cardiac imaging to monitor for heart damage may be needed for some cancer patients”

Carolyn Larsen

Overall, one in 10 cancer patients developed heart failure by 20 years after cancer diagnosis, according to the research being presented at the American College of Cardiology annual conference.

The researchers retrospectively tracked heart failure cases in 900 breast cancer and lymphoma patients and 1,550 non-cancer patients from 1985 to 2010.

Their study revealed that cancer patients were three times as likely to develop heart failure within five years of their diagnosis.

At 20 years after treatment, patients were still twice as likely to have been diagnosed with heart failure, noted the researchers. In addition, about seven out of every 100 cancer patients developed heart failure during the median follow-up of 8.5 years.

Of those with cancer, patients who also had diabetes or received high doses of a type of chemotherapy called an anthracycline had an even higher risk for heart failure.

“Working to live a heart-healthy lifestyle is important for cancer patients and survivors”

Carolyn Larsen

The study’s first author, Dr Carolyn Larsen, said: “The majority of patients do not develop heart failure, but our research helps us recognise the factors associated with it and the importance of appropriate heart care following cancer treatment.”

She said: “Our research suggests that periodic cardiac imaging to monitor for heart damage may be needed for some cancer patients even if they have no signs of heart damage initially after chemotherapy.

“Additionally, it emphasises that working to live a heart-healthy lifestyle is important for cancer patients and survivors to reduce the overall risk of heart disease,” she added.

Following treatment, breast cancer and lymphoma patients should be assessed yearly for signs and symptoms of heart failure, said Dr Larsen.

Senior author Dr Hector Villarraga said: “We discovered that diabetes also was a strong risk factor, but we don’t know what happens in the body that makes heart failure more likely in these patients.”

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