If you're having heart problems you may feel that your heart is beating irregularly, very fast, or forcefully in your chest. You may have chest pains or experience a heart attack.
Symptoms of heart problems include:
- breathing problems
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- swelling of feet and lower legs
- feeling weak or dizzy
Many things can cause heart problems, including stress, being overweight, and smoking. Several breast cancer treatments may cause heart problems:
- chemotherapy, especially the medicine Adriamycin (chemical name: doxorubicin)
- radiation therapy
- Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab), a targeted therapy
- Avastin (chemical name: bevacizumab), a targeted therapy
- Some hormonal therapies:
- Arimidex (chemical name: anastrozole)
- Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane)
- Femara (chemical name: letrozole)
- Faslodex (chemical name: fulvestrant)
Avoiding heart problems
If you have chest pain or trouble breathing, talk to your doctor right away. Since heart problems can be caused by so many things, it's important to figure out exactly what's happening. Your doctor may test your heart before you start treatment for breast cancer and several times while you're having treatment. If you do happen to have any treatment-related problems, your heart will probably regain its strength and full function after treatment ends.
Other tips to keep your heart as healthy during treatment:
- Manage high blood pressure, if you've been diagnosed with it.
- Stop smoking.
- Exercise. Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and keep your heart (a muscle) fit.
- Use relaxation techniques such as meditation and visualization to help reduce your stress levels.
- Manage your cholesterol levels. Lower your "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins) and raise your "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins).
- Eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Reduce the amount of fatty meat and sugar you eat.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you're overweight, your heart has to work harder. Excess weight also raises your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, all of which can harm your heart.
Breastcancer.org's mission is to help women and their loved ones make sense of the complex medical and personal information about breast health and breast cancer, so they can make the best decisions for their lives. Medical information on the Breastcancer.org web site and in our printed materials is reviewed by members of our Professional Advisory Board, which includes over 60 practicing medical professionals from around the world who are leaders in their fields. We are a nonprofit organization supported by individuals, foundations, and corporations. Find more about us here.