Heart Problems


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
  • coughing
  • swelling of feet and lower legs
  • feeling weak or dizzy
  • fatigue

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
  • some hormonal therapies:
    • Arimidex (chemical name: anastrozole) 
    • Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane)
    • Faslodex (chemical name: fulvestrant)
    • Femara (chemical name: letrozole)
    • tamoxifen
  • some targeted therapies:
    • Avastin (chemical name: bevacizumab)
    • Enhertu (chemical name: fam-trastuzumab-deruxtecan-nxki)
    • Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab)
    • Herceptin Hylecta (chemical name: trastuzumab and hyaluronidase-oysk)
    • Herzuma (chemical name: trastuzumab-pkrb)
    • Kadcyla (chemical name: T-DM1 or ado-trastuzumab emtansine)
    • Kisqali (chemical name: ribociclib, formerly called LEE011)
    • Ogivri (chemical name: trastuzumab-dkst)
    • Ontruzant (chemical name: trastuzumab-dttb)
    • Phesgo (chemical name: pertuzumab, trastuzumab, and hyaluronidase-zzxf)
    • Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib)

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.

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