Reducing the Burden of Cardiovascular Disease from Breast Cancer

Start Year: 2019
Finish Year: 2021
Chief Investigator: Professor Bogda Koczwara
Institution: Flinders University

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.