July 14, 2024

Zenith Tranquil

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Breast Cancer Treatment: Expert Explains Its Link With Heart Disease And How DASH Diet Can Help

3 min read
Breast Cancer Treatment: Expert Explains Its Link With Heart Disease And How DASH Diet Can HelpBreast Cancer Treatment: Expert Explains Its Link With Heart Disease And How DASH Diet Can Help

Did you know breast cancer treatment may increase the risk of developing heart disease? Breast cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the breast tissue, typically starting in one or both breasts. This cancer can be treated, giving hope to patients for recovery. However, many survivors develop Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) post-treatment. Hence, there is an urgent need to create awareness about the link between breast cancer and CVD to empower survivors to take positive steps to maintain heart health. 

We spoke to our expert Dr Neil M Iyengar, MD, Breast Oncologist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, who explained the link between breast cancer treatment and heart disease and the role of Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet in management.

breast-cancer

“Breast cancer occurs due to the abnormal growth of cells in the breasts, which eventually form tumours. It can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated,” said Dr Iyengar. Along with advanced and precise diagnostic tests, treatment modalities for breast cancer have vastly improved over the years, providing cancer survivors the opportunity to live full lives after recovery. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2022, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with the disease while 670,000 died. In almost half the cases, the key risk factors were age (above 40 years) and gender (female).

Link Between Breast Cancer Treatment and CVDs

heart-disease-in-women

“The treatment of breast cancer can be a complex process and doctors may choose more than one method to treat it depending upon its severity. Some of the most commonly used methods include radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery,” said Dr Iyengar.

“While these methods have evolved and become more effective, some can potentially affect the heart. Hence, women with breast cancer are far more likely to develop CVDs as compared to those without the condition,” he added.

In a study conducted among 63,566 women diagnosed with breast cancer, 15.9% of them died due to CVDs.The prevalence of CVDs can be attributed to several factors, such as the presence of common risk factors and the cardiotoxicity of certain treatments. For instance, certain chemotherapeutic drugs can increase oxidative stress and also lead to cell death. In some cases, patients can develop cardiomyopathy (problems with cardiac muscle) within a year after treatment. Similarly, radiation therapy to the chest can also increase the risk of cardiac toxicity, although newer radiation techniques can lower this risk.

Significance of the DASH diet

DASH-diet

“One of the approaches that can help prevent heart disease in breast cancer survivors is the implementation of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. This diet has often been cited as the ideal diet to reduce the risk of CVDs,” said Dr Iyengar.

This dietary approach emphasises increased intake of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, healthy fats, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds while incorporating micronutrients. Furthermore, the DASH diet limits sodium intake to around 1,500 mg/day with a focus on consuming minimally processed and fresh foods.

According to a 2024 study conducted among 3,415 breast cancer survivors revealed that those who followed a diet consistent with the DASH pattern were at a lower risk of CVDs, such as arrhythmia, heart failure, cardiac arrest, and valvular heart disease, as well as death.

Bottomline

Dr Iyengar concluded, “Following the DASH diet in the overall treatment plan is key to mitigating the risk of cardiovascular diseases and promoting long-term survival. These proactive steps can enhance patients’ longevity and quality of life.”

[Disclaimer: This article contains information provided by an expert and is for informational purposes only. Hence, we advise you to consult your own professional if you are dealing with any health issues to avoid complications.]

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