Breast Cancer Patients Dying Most from Cardiac Problems

Cardiac disease is the biggest killer for breast cancer survivors

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Advances in early detection of breast cancer and new treatments mean that more women are now beating the disease. In fact, their chances of survival have increased dramatically.

New research shows that two thirds of women with breast cancer died as a result of other causes over the length of the study, with heart disease pinpointed as the leading cause of death.

"Don't neglect annual exams even when concentrating on an illness."

Breast cancer accounts for almost a third of all cancer cases reported in women, though women are living longer and survival rates have increased. Breast cancer is now the most common form of cancer in the United Kingdom, affecting one out of every eight women. Of every 10 of those women, eight are women over the age of 50.

According to University of Colorado researchers, women at greatest risk of dying from the disease included women diagnosed at a younger age and women with a high tumor grade.

However, older women who were more likely to have other health problems stemming from previous cancer, cardiovascular disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or diabetes, were most likely to die from causes other than their cancer.

The pattern found in the causes of death for the women matches that of older women in the general population, with heart disease topping the list.

Researchers analyzed data from the SEER-Medicare database and followed more than 60,000 U.S. women who were at least 66 years old. They were followed from breast cancer diagnosis for up to 12 years. Nearly half of the women were still alive at the end of the study. The average age among those who died was 83. More than 65 percent died from causes other than breast cancer.

The study was published in BioMed Central's Breast Cancer Research, an international peer-reviewed online journal.

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Review Date: 
June 19, 2011
Last Updated:
June 20, 2011