Breast Cancer Radiation Raises Heart Disease Risk -- But What Does That Really Mean?
The scariest thing about a recent study examining the connection between heart disease and radiation in breast cancer treatment, if you ask me, is that experts can't seem to agree on what it means. We're talking 43 years of research involving 2,168 women -- resulting in evidence that radiation for breast cancer treatment does indeed increase women's risk of heart disease. Seems pretty cut and dry, right? Except, maybe not. It all boils down to one question: Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
Um, maybe? According to one oncologist, "This is a major concern." According to a similarly-minded cardiologist, this study "may represent just the tip of the iceberg." Yikes! Meanwhile, others have called the dangers of radiation "modest." Compared to ... letting cancer go unchecked?
To be fair, radiation techniques have evolved significantly during the past 43 years; women undergoing radiation today are at significantly lower risk: "It would be a real tragedy if this put women off having radiotherapy for breast cancer," says the study's lead researcher.
I understand his point, but that doesn't make this decision any easier for women who have no choice but to, well, make a choice. What are the alternatives to radiation, after all? Maybe the heart risk aspect is moot until different treatments are developed.
Would the results of this study scare you away from radiation?