According to the Journal of the American Heart Association, one in six people who were suffering from the broken heart syndrome also had cancer and had smaller chances of surviving five years after the condition emerged.
Broken heart syndrome, also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, occurs when the pumping chamber of the heart enlarges temporarily and does not pump efficiently enough. Although it may resemble a heart attack, with shortness of breath and chest pain, heart muscle damage does not occur, and there is no blockage in the coronary arteries feeding the heart.
The syndrome can be triggered by physical or emotional stress, but this multi-national study of patients from 26 centers shows the strongest yet association between the condition and cancer.
Survival rates in broken heart syndrome could be improved overall given that they are screened for cancer, according to Christian Templin, MD, PhD, senior author of the study and director of Interventional Cardiology at the University Heart Center Zurich in Switzerland.
The researchers are hoping that their study will make aware and alert hematologists and oncologist of the possibility of broken heart syndrome in cancer diagnosed patients who experience shortness of breath, chest pain or abnormalities on their electrocardiogram.
The study observed that 1,604 patients with broken heart syndrome in the International Takotsubo Registry. 267 people, 87.6% of whom were women averagely aged 69.5 years, were found to have cancer.
The most common kind was breast cancer, followed by tumors affecting the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal system, skin, and internal sex organs, among other areas.
Researchers discovered that the patients who had cancer were:
- Less likely to have experienced an emotional trigger for the syndrome, 18.0% vs. 30.3%.
- More likely to have had a physical trigger (e.g., a medical intervention or physical trauma) before the syndrome, 47.9% vs. 34.2%.
- Equally likely to survive for 30 days after the syndrome began, but more likely to die or require intensive heart and respiratory support during their hospital stay.
- More likely to die within five years after the syndrome began.
According to the researchers, the study was not big enough to analyze if the worse prognosis in those with broken heart syndrome and cancer is caused by a stage or type of cancer, or by the treatments the patients received.
“The mechanism by which malignancy 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,” Templin said.
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