American Heart Association warns breast cancer patients could experience heart failure

Updated: Jun. 13, 2018 at 5:26 PM CDT
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(WMC / NBC News) - This year, the American Heart Association issued a warning that breast cancer patients who get chemo may face heart failure.

Now, the problem is cropping up more often with new cancer therapies.

"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," Lisa Lyon, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, said.

During chemo, Lyon's heart began 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," Lyon said.

She 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," Dr. Anna Catino, a cardiologist with University of Utah Hospital, said.

Catino put Lyon 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," Catino said.

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

Lyon gets Echocardiograms every three to six months to make sure her heart stays healthy.

The American Heart Association said women over 65 who are treated for breast cancer are more likely to die of heart problems than they are of cancer.

Breast cancer patients can improve their chances of living a long life with exercise and a healthful diet.

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