Breast Cancer and Heart Health

A woman takes her blood pressure with an automated blood pressure cuff. She wears glasses, and is looking down at the machine.

In Canada, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women while heart disease is the leading cause of death for women over the age of 55.

They’re very different illnesses –– but they’re more closely connected than many women and their physicians previously realized.

Thanks to research from Dr. Husam Abdel-Qadir at Women’s College Research Institute, awareness of the relationship between breast cancer and heart disease is rapidly increasing –– along with lives saved.

A cardiologist and scientist at WCH, Dr. Abdel-Qadir is exploring the impact of certain types of breast cancer treatments on women’s heart health.

“About one in five women diagnosed with breast cancer require a targeted therapy that has been shown to weaken the heart in some patients” says Dr. Abdel-Qadir.

“For other women, chest radiation or hormonal therapies to treat breast cancer can affect the heart. But we noticed that across the medical community, there was an inconsistent understanding of the relationship between breast cancer treatment and heart disease.”

Recognizing a major knowledge gap, Dr. Abdel-Qadir and his team scoured through over 20 years of data on Ontario women diagnosed with breast cancer –– a resource available through ICES, a leading not-for-profit research institute –– to examine risk factors for heart health issues related to breast cancer treatment, how often heart issues occurred, and whether concern about heart disease should impact breast cancer treatment decisions.

“Our research has found that although heart disease is an important consideration, the long-term risk of breast cancer is greater than the risk of heart disease limiting a woman’s lifespan or quality of life,” he says.

“These findings mean that most women should be encouraged to undergo the best possible treatment their oncologist can recommend, and manage any heart health issues that may arise as a result of the cancer treatment.”

Dr. Abdel-Qadir’s research is already having a direct impact on women and health providers across the medical community.

“There is definitely a growing awareness among both patients and oncologists about the potential impacts of treatment on heart health, and we’re working to continue broadly sharing the findings of our research to help more people make the best decisions for their lives and futures.”

Your generosity makes like-changing research like Dr. Abdel-Qadir’s possible. If you would like to deepen your support, donate online today at or call
416-323-6323. Thank you!

Three senior women, all wearing blue Women's College Hospital vests hold the picture of Maureen Green.
Three senior women, all wearing blue Women's College Hospital vests hold the picture of Maureen Green.

A Lasting Gift: New Endowed Chair in Memory of Maureen Green

In memory of long-time member Maureen Green, The Association of Volunteers at WCH made a transformational $3.8 million gift to establish the first-ever Chair in Healthcare Equity and Access and help fund new breast cancer screen equipment. Thank you, Association of Volunteers!

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