A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, suggests that there’s a link between cancer and a condition called “broken heart syndrome.”
“Broken heart syndrome,” also called stress cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is a temporary condition that can be brought on by stress. During broken heart syndrome, one part of the heart stops pumping normally, which may cause the rest of the heart to pump more forcefully, according to the Mayo Clinic.
According to the study, 1 in 6 out of 1,600 people with broken heart syndrome had cancer, and apparently, these patients, in particular, were more likely to die within five years, compared to broken heart syndrome patients who didn’t have cancer. Of those with cancer, nearly 90 percent were women. The most consistent type of cancer was breast, followed by the gastrointestinal system, respiratory tract, internal sex organs, skin, and other areas.
The 2018 study relied on data from the International Takotsubo Registry and found a link between cancer and broken heart syndrome but does not show that one causes the other. However, study authors said that’s an area they feel needs to be researched thoroughly.
“The mechanism by which [cancer] and cancer treatment may promote the development of broken heart syndrome should be explored, and our findings provide an additional reason to investigate the potential cardiotoxic effects of chemotherapy,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Christian Templin, director of Interventional Cardiology at The University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland.
Templin continued, “Our study … should raise awareness among oncologists and hematologists that broken heart syndrome should be considered in patients undergoing cancer diagnosis or treatment who experience chest pain, shortness of breath or abnormalities on their electrocardiogram.”
BHS was first identified in Japan in 1990 when physicians noticed people with heart attack symptoms didn’t have any of the signature blood clots that cause heart attacks. Stressors such as financial loss, heartbreak, or a natural disaster causes physical damage to the heart. Cardiomyopathy ensues because the heart’s main pumping chamber temporarily enlarges and doesn’t pump well.
BHS feels similar to a heart attack, with chest pain and shortness of breath, but there is no heart muscle damage and no blockage in the coronary arteries feeding the heart.