Cancer Increases Your Stroke and Heart Attack Risk

 After a cancer diagnosis, your risk of developing either a stroke or heart attack is increased.  According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (August 22, 2017), 4.7 percent of people within six months of being diagnosed with cancer had a stroke or heart attack as opposed to just 2.2 percent of people not diagnosed. 

The study included almost 575,000 people covered by medicare.  The cancers being diagnosed included bladder, breast, colorectal, gastric, lung, pancreatic, and prostate.  The study also found that people with more advanced cancers were at a higher risk than those with an early stage cancer.

The study could not determine if the increase in risk was attributed to cancer itself or to treatments.  Those newly diagnosed with cancer that also have the traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking or living a sedentary lifestyle may be at an even higher risk.

We all need to know, recognize and respond to the symptoms of both a stroke and a heart attack.  The earlier we receive treatment, the better the outcomes so know the symptoms and respond quickly. 

Stroke - know the symptoms

A stroke occurs when blood clots develop in the arteries that supply the brain.  The most common warning signs of a stroke are sudden:

·     numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg

·     confusion or trouble speaking

·     difficulty with your vision

·     dizziness, trouble walking, balance problems, or coordination difficulty and

·     a severe headache with no known cause

Heart attack - know the symptoms - Note they might be different between men and women.

A heart attack occurs when blood clots develop in the arteries that supply blood to the heart.  The most common warning signs of a heart attack are:

·     chest discomfort, pain or tightness

·     shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

·     pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach

If you experience any of these symptoms, the American Heart Association recommends that you call 911 immediately.  The quicker you can receive medical assistance the less damage you will suffer. 

Some doctors recommend that you carry aspirin tablets with you and that as soon as you experience any of these symptoms, you immediately take these pills.  Before you do this speak to your doctor to be sure that they recommend this for you. 

It is much better to go to the emergency room and find out that all you have is indigestion than ignore the symptoms and allow your body to be permanently and severely damaged. 

Please note that the symptoms of a heart attack in women might be different than those experienced by a man. It is common that the symptoms experienced by a women are not necessarily as dramatic as those felt by men. These symptoms can included: uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest which could last more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

  1. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

  2. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

  3. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

  4. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

“Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure, ” said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer. “Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.”

Even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesn’t get help right away.