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Quality Of Life

Reducing the Burden of Cardiovascular Disease from Breast Cancer

Flinders University Professor

Bogda Koczwara

  • Project description: Professor Koczwara’s project will look at improving the management of cardiovascular issues for people experiencing or recovering from breast cancer.
  • Why this work is needed: Cardiovascular disease is the second-leading cause of death for women with a diagnosis of breast cancer (following breast cancer itself). Currently, there are no clear clinical care pathways to improve cardiovascular health in people with cancer. Professor Koczwara aims to minimise the impact of cardiovascular disease by developing a clinical pathway that ensures women receive the best breast cancer treatment without having to compromise their cardiovascular health. 
  • Expected outcomes: Professor Koczwara’s research will develop a new, nurse-led clinical model of care that will centre on identifying risk, counselling on self-management and providing early interventions. This framework will not only improve integrated care between cancer specialists and other health professionals but will also help breast cancer patients improve their heart health following treatment.

Project details
Cardiovascular disease is a potential complication of breast cancer treatment and is the second-leading cause of death following a breast cancer diagnosis (after cancer itself). In older women, after 10 years from diagnosis of cancer, the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease exceed those from cancer. These statistics highlight the importance of cardiovascular care for people who have, or have had, breast cancer.

Rates of cardiovascular complications are highest for people who had known risk factors at time of cancer diagnosis, such as obesity and poor diet which are very common in Australian women. Unfortunately, during the acute treatment phase of cancer, other medical conditions and risk factors can sometimes be neglected. At present, there are no clinical care pathways to improve cardiovascular health in people with cancer.

Prof. Bogda Koczwara is passionate about improving cardiovascular management for people with or who are recovering from breast cancer. Many current strategies for reducing risk are lifestyle-based, such as having a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. This NBCF-funded project will develop and implement a new, nurse-led clinical model of care. It will focus on identifying risk factors, counselling on self-management and providing early interventions. It also aims to optimise integrated care between cancer specialists and other health professionals.

Presence of cardiovascular risk factors is also associated with worse cancer outcomes, and so improving heart health may improve breast cancer survival. Under the guidance of Prof. Koczwara, the aim of the project is to identify and build a framework that enables breast cancer patients to become cancer free with a healthy heart too.

Flinders University Professor

Bogda Koczwara