Breast Cancer Drugs and Heart Problems


SALT LAKE CITY, UT (Ivanhoe Newswire) — In February, the American Heart Association issued a warning that an unprecedented number of breast cancer patients who get chemo or radiation may face heart failure, sometimes years later. Cardiologists and Oncologists have known this happens with Adriamycin and Herceptin for years, but the problem is cropping up more often, with new cancer therapies. Below is the story of one woman’s experience.

Lisa Lyon was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive breast cancer at 28.

“There was so much cancer. There was like 16 centimeters of tumors in my breast and in my skin and I had five lymph nodes that were involved,” Lyon told Ivanhoe.

During chemo, her heart started acting up.

“In the middle of the night, I would feel my heart working extra hard. It just feels extra hard, maybe you’re out of breath maybe you’re a little bit dizzy,” explained Lyon.

Lisa was also taking Herceptin since she has a gene that promotes cancer growth called HER2. The targeted therapy helps prevent recurrence.

“That compounded with the traditional Anthracycline chemotherapies can really be pretty harmful to the heart. And Lisa was one of those patients that got both,” said Dr. Anna Catino, Cardiologist and Cardio-Oncology Specialist at the University of Utah Hospital.

Dr. Catino put Lisa on medications to calm her heart so she can keep taking Herceptin.

“Now we’re having sort of an explosion of cancer therapies that are great for the cancer, but unfortunately, the side effects may be that they hurt the heart in various ways,” said Dr. Catino.

She was able to prevent permanent damage because Lisa reported her symptoms right away. Signs to tell your doctor about are shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, and palpitations.

“Her heart function is back to normal,” Dr. Catino told Ivanhoe.

Lisa gets echocardiograms every three to six months to make sure her heart stays healthy.

The American Heart Association says women over 65 who are treated for breast cancer are more likely to die of heart problems than they are of cancer. The AHA statement goes on to say all breast cancer patients can improve their chances of living a long life with exercise and a healthful diet.

Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Producer; Katie Campbell, Assistant Producer; Jason Ball, Videographer; Bob Walko, Editor.

To receive a free weekly e-mail on Medical Breakthroughs from Ivanhoe, sign up at: