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Women receiving radiotherapy for breast cancer are more likely to suffer from IHD

Radiotherapy is an important form of treatment for breast cancer in order to prevent recurrences. However, scientists have often wondered the effect of these harmful ionizing radiations on heart. In a new study published in a recent issue of the journal New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers have found that radiation therapy makes the women more prone to suffer from an ischemic heart disease. The risk is the highest within the first five years of receiving the radiotherapy but may persist for almost 20 years.

For their study, Sarah Darby, from the Clinical Trial Service Unit in Oxford, England, along with her colleagues analyzed the effect of radiation therapy on 2168 women who had received this treatment between 1958 and 2001 in Sweden and Denmark. 963 of these women had major coronary events while the remaining 1205 women served as controls. The case patients had no recurrence of breast cancer or any incidence of any other form of cancer before they suffered from a major cardiac event. The average dose of radiation received by these women was 4.9 Gy.

The researchers observed that with every 7.4% increase in the amount of radiation received, the rate of cardiac events increased. It was 16.3% in the first 5 years, 15.5% in the next 5 years, 1.2% in the next decade and 8.2% in the later life. For women who already had a history of IHD prior to receiving radiation therapy, the rate of suffering from another episode of IHD post radiation therapy rose by almost 6.67 times. The risk of IHD was also higher in women suffering from other cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, COPD, or in smokers.

The researchers have opined that it is necessary to examine the women for any evidence of IHD or any other diseases at the time of diagnosis of breast cancer and further treatment should be based on these findings. It is also essential to follow up the women post radiotherapy, and keeping a watch on their cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar levels in order to prevent ischemic heart disease.


Editor: Dr. Bimal Rajalingam MBBS DNB (Resp Med)

Friday, March 22, 2013
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