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breast cancer treatment
risk factors for heart disease
coronary diseases
surgical interventions
radiation treatment
radiation therapy
breast cancer
heart attacks
Breast Cancer Treatment May Increase Women's Risk Of Heart Disease
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Breast Cancer Treatment May Increase Women\'s Risk Of Heart Disease

A woman's risk of stenosis, or narrowing of the arteries may increase if she develops breast cancer on the left side of the body and is treated with radiation. In a Swedish study, the risk for women developing narrowing arteries leading to the heart increases between four to seven times, depending on the location of her cancer as well as the type and duration of her radiation. The researchers did caution that overall, the risk was relatively small, certainly not enough to warrant ending or avoiding radiation treatment.

In their study, over eight thousand women with breast cancer were studied for their reactions and follow up developments after their radiation therapy ended. Nearly two hundred of the women developed stenosis that was severe enough to require surgical interventions, usually in the form of arterial stents which are placed to keep the artery from closing in on itself and to allow blood to continue to flow through it.

Arterial stenosis is given a grade from zero, meaning that the artery is completely unblocked to a five which means that the artery is completely blocked. In the women who had to have radiation on the left side of their chest, the risk for being graded from 3-5 was nearly five times higher while the risk of being graded from a 4-5 was nearly eight times higher. Arterial blockages can lead to major heart attacks and other coronary diseases which can be fatal if left untreated.

In a related study, researchers found that women who had been treated with radiation before the mid 1980's were much more likely to die than those who have been treated with radiation under new guidelines and techniques. However, studies still show that the radiation amounts that are still being used are considerably higher than could be considered safe. Doctors should be cautioned to use the minimal dosages of radiation for their patients and to monitor for these particular risk factors, especially if they have other risk factors for heart disease, including family history and others.

Breast cancer, while a major health concern for women of all ages is still not their number one killer. Heart disease holds that designation with more women dying from heart disease than breast cancer nearly five to one. February is National Women's Heart Health month, with the American Heart Association striving to reach out to women to educate them about their heart health and their risk of heart attack.


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