Researchers have found that emotional stress may not be the only trigger for broken heart syndrome, a heart condition that can be triggered by mental or physical stress.
A study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that one in six people with broken heart syndrome also had cancer, and those with cancer were less likely to report an emotional trigger for their heart symptoms.
Though its name may sound like a Hollywood phenomenon, broken heart syndrome—also known as takotsubo syndrome—occurs when the main chamber of a patient’s heart temporarily enlarges, causing it to pump abnormally.
The condition often presents with heart attack-like symptoms, including chest pain and shortness of breath.
Though many cases are triggered by emotionally stressful events, researchers say this study draws the strong association between the syndrome and cancer.
“Patients with broken heart syndrome might benefit if screened for cancer to improve their overall survival,” Christian Templin, senior author of the study, said in a press release.
“Our study also should raise awareness among oncologists and hematologists that broken heart syndrome should be considered in patients undergoing cancer diagnosis or treatment who experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or abnormalities on their electrocardiogram.”
Compared to those without cancer, broken heart syndrome patients with cancer were almost twice as likely to have experienced a physical trigger versus an emotional trigger before experiencing heart symptoms.
Of those with cancer, 90 per cent of patients studied were women.
According to the American Heart Association, more women than men experience broken heart syndrome overall.
Researchers note that the study is too small to analyze whether the link between the conditions is related to a specific type of cancer, or the cancer treatments received.
But study authors note the findings provide context to study the “potential cardiotoxic effects of chemotherapy.”