Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - More than 232,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society.
Chest radiation therapy is often used after breast surgery to lower the chance that the cancer will return in the remaining breast tissue.
But a study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that radiation – though effective against breast cancer – increases the woman’s risk of major heart disease.
They say it’s because the beams of radiation penetrate past the breast to the heart and the arteries around it.
Women who are subjected to radiation to the left breast, which is closer to the heart, are at especially high risk.
Those risks can last for decades after treatment ends.
However, the overall benefits outweigh the risks.
Today, there are more ways to administer radiation therapy that reduce risk to a woman’s heart and to monitor women for developing heart disease.