If you have cancer, it can be devastating to find out that you have heart problems too. A heart attack, the sudden death of heart cells due to blockage of the arteries that supply oxygen to the heart, can happen to people who are in good health and no one expects it. It can also happen during cancer treatment, but there are many ways you can prevent this from happening and make sure you get the right treatment if it does occur. Keep reading to learn more about how a heart attack affects your cancer and what you can do about it.
Does Having a Heart Attack Increase My Risk of Getting Cancer?
Having a heart attack does not increase your risk of developing cancer. As scary as it might sound, having both conditions isn’t linked in any way. In fact, some studies suggest that patients who have had heart attacks are actually less likely to develop certain types of cancer over time than those who have never had one. While it may seem strange, consider that heart attacks and strokes are among just a few medical issues that can be linked to lowered mortality rates among cancer patients down the road.
The Link Between Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer
Coronary heart disease (CHD) and cancer are two of today’s biggest killers, and it is estimated that more than 50% of patients who die from CHD also have some form of cancer. For example, many people who develop colon cancer also have a history of intestinal polyps (growths or lesions on the lining in the intestines), which can lead to colon cancer. Similarly, researchers believe that radiation therapy used for prostate cancer may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Can Cancer Treatments Cause Heart Problems?
Cancers that require radiation, surgery or hormone treatments can be particularly dangerous because they can weaken your heart. Additionally, research has shown that various cancer drugs may increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. For example, certain types of breast cancer treatments such as aromatase inhibitors (such as letrozole) have been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
The Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease that Also Increase the Risk of Cancer
It’s no secret that heart disease and cancer are closely related. Many risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension and high cholesterol, also increase your risk of getting cancer. This makes it even more important to manage these risks as early as possible. It can save your life!
A Heart Attack Does Not Always Mean A Second Cancer Diagnosis
Researchers are aware that there is an increased risk of certain types of cancer after having a heart attack. But, did you know that if your cancer treatment was successful and you no longer have cancer, it’s actually more likely that your second diagnosis is cardiovascular disease? Also, did you know that chemo drugs may increase your risk for heart attacks or strokes in some cases?
Symptoms During Hospitalization That Might Be From The Second Diagnosis, Not Just Stress from the First
Pay attention to symptoms. Some patients are rushed into emergency surgery so quickly they don’t really have time to develop obvious signs of heart attack from their cancer treatment, like chest pain. But many do, and it’s important for caregivers and loved ones to be aware of these symptoms.
Keeping Your Heart Healthy While Dealing with Cancer
Cardiovascular disease is more common in people with cancer. In fact, your risk of getting heart disease is doubled if you have cancer than if you don’t. People with cancer often experience side effects that can affect their heart and blood vessels: treatments, medications, and stress can all play a role. If you experience shortness of breath or fatigue, see your oncologist for an evaluation; he or she may be able to help reduce your symptoms.