Breast cancer treatment and heart problems

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Sept. 4, 2006

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Studies that were published in the Aug. 15 Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that popular treatments for breast cancer can cause heart problems in women, although the benefits of the treatments still outweighed any risk.

The treatments, which were reported on in separate studies in the journal, were radiation and Herceptin (trastuzumab).

The clinical researchers who examined the effects of radiation checked the medical records of 961 patients who had either stage I or II breast cancer.

Those researchers concluded that, although irradiation to the left breast is not associated with a higher risk of cardiac death up to 20 years after treatment, it is associated with an increased rate of the diagnoses of coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction when compared with radiation treatment to the right breast.

The researchers who were evaluating the cardiac safety of long-term Herceptin treatment concluded that the benefits of the treatment outweighed the risk of heart failure and that the toxicity of the drug to the heart is reversible in most of the patients.

They assessed 173 patients with metastatic breast cancer.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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