Heart disease, not recurrence of cancer, is the No.1 cause of death for breast cancer survivors and women overall.

cbs cardonc storyThat’s a staggering title. It almost makes no sense. Everyone would assume breast cancer kills more breast cancer patients. The reality is, we do pretty well with treatment for breast cancer. We still need to fight everyday to do better, but we have made great progress.

CBS won’t let me embed the video but it is a good news story if you haven’t seen it.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/breast-cancer-and-heart-disease-emerging-cardio-oncology-field-targets-risk-in-patients-survivors/

Overall, it’s a great 3-5 min article on the emerging field of cardio-oncology (the interaction between cancer treatment and cardiac disease). The overall take-home message of the original story is very positive in a way. It highlights that, as we do better with respect to curing cancer, minimizing treatment related side effects becomes more and more important. This is basically the central argument for the use of proton therapy in the treatment of cancer. Tissue damage from radiation does not occur in tissues that do not receive dose. With protons, there are VERY FEW cases where breast cancer patients would receive much radiation dose at all. As I wrote in a more scientific article – if heart doses are high – we can reduce your radiation dose to your heart to about 1/15th what IMRT or VMAT can do << that is the published literature.

For all of the good things the article does, it misses one very important point:

I thought they missed one main point – Radiation damage to the heart is avoidable for most cases. In breast cancer, proton therapy has a proven ability to essentially eliminate dose to the heart for even some of the most difficult cases. That should remove long-term radiation damage.

BE THE CEO OF YOUR HEALTH. KNOW YOUR TREATMENT OPTIONS. KNOW THE DOSE YOUR HEART RECEIVES. BE AN ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF.