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Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan

Understanding interactions between cancer and cardiovascular disease



Shaping the EU’s Beating Cancer Plan

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) welcomes the launch of the public discussion on Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan in the European Parliament.

The Plan is an outstanding opportunity for the EU to showcase the added value it brings to improving the health of European citizens. However, to successfully achieve the goal of reducing the burden of Europe’s second biggest killer after cardiovascular disease, a more integrated and holistic approach on comorbidities is needed.

Recent studies have shown that advances in treatment have led to improved survival of cancer patients but have also increased mortality due to treatment side effects. Cardiovascular diseases (Heart Failure, Myocardial Infarction, Arrhythmias) are one of the most frequent side effects1. This is the result of cardiotoxicity, which involves direct effects of cancer treatment on the heart function. There is a growing concern that side effects may lead to premature morbidity and death among cancer survivors2.

Within five years of diagnosis people treated for lymphoma or breast cancer were three times as likely to develop heart failure, as people who never had cancer.
Larson CM, et la. 2018 ACC Annual Scientific Session. Session #1105-066

Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of mortality in elderly women diagnosed with breast cancer. Furthermore, researchers have found that within five years of their cancer diagnosis, the risk of heart failure was three times higher in people treated for breast cancer or lymphoma than in people without cancer.

Heart failure is the final stage of most cardiovascular diseases. It is extremely debilitating and deadly, as no effective treatment, except heart transplantation, is currently available to cure it. The interaction between cancer and chronic heart failure is a massive psychological burden for patients and has significant economic impact on EU’s healthcare systems. Equally, an increasing incidence of cancer in patients with heart disease has been identified, clearly showing the need to avoid tackling diseases in a siloed approach.

For these reasons, the ESC calls on the European Commission and the European Parliament to:

  • Recognise cancer comorbidities as central component of the EU Cancer Plan and cardiovascular disease as the most frequent comorbidity
  • Involve the cardiovascular community in dialogue for the preparation of the EU Cancer Plan
  • Support research on cancer and cardiovascular comorbidities under the EU Cancer Mission

 

Further reading: 

ESC statement on cancer comorbidities

'Making cancer-related complications and comorbidities an EU health priority', a joint statement from the ESC and other healthcare organisations.

Case Study

Listen to the story of ESC Patient Forum member Kreena Dhiman who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33, and as a result of the cardio-toxicity of the chemotherapy developed severe heart failure.