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CoastLine: Why breast cancer and heart disease are intimately intertwined and why local patients are presenting with later stages of cancer

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The farther down the road of disease a patient goes before diagnosis, the more challenging – and unlikely – that doctors can bring them back to health. The pandemic has exacerbated this trend: women are showing up in the doctor’s office with later stages of cancer.

The North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics points out that cancer remains the leading cause of death in Brunswick and New Hanover Counties. Number two? Heart disease. The national trend is the reverse, according to the CDC. Heart disease tops the list and cancer takes the number two spot. And the two diseases are intimately intertwined.

When serious disease is treatable with early diagnosis, it’s nothing short of tragic for doctors to see people with advanced symptoms. The farther down the road of disease a patient goes before diagnosis, the more challenging – and unlikely – that doctors can bring them back to health.

The pandemic has exacerbated this trend: women are showing up in the doctor’s office with later stages of cancer. One of the reasons: the medical system shut down all elective procedures during the worst of the pandemic which included routine medical screenings.

On this episode of CoastLine, we learn about the connection between heart disease and cancer, the factors that are under your control for prevention, and what the latest research tells us about best practices in screening and treatment.

Guests:

Lindsey Prochaska, DO; medical oncologist, co-director, cardio-oncology program, New Hanover Regional Medical Center

Kris Swiger, MD; cardiologist, co-director, cardio-oncology program, New Hanover Regional Medical Center

Editor's Note: In this episode, the host incorrectly referred to Dr. Thaddeus Coin as "retired". He is decidedly unretired and still runs his own practice which you can learn about here: http://coinneurology.com/

Resources:

If you need more information or help getting a mammogram, including finding financial help, contact Sarah Arthur, Director of Community Engagement, NHRMC, at sarah.arthur@nhrmc.org

American Heart Association:  My Life Check / Life’s Simple 7 

What is Life’s Simple 7®?

Life's Simple 7 is defined by the American Heart Association as the 7 risk factors that people can improve through lifestyle changes to help achieve ideal cardiovascular health.

  1. Manage Blood PressureHigh blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys which keeps you healthier longer.Learn how to manage your blood pressure with our infographic.
  2. Control CholesterolHigh cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages.Learn how to control your cholesterol with our infographic.
  3. Reduce Blood SugarMost of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use for energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.Learn how to reduce your blood sugar with our infographic.
  4. Get ActiveLiving an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life.Learn how to get active and move more with our infographic.
  5. Eat BetterA healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy – for life!Learn how to eat better with our infographic.
  6. Lose WeightWhen you shed extra fat and unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. You give yourself the gift of active living, you lower your blood pressure and you help yourself feel better, too.Learn how to lose or manage weight. with our infographic.
  7. Stop SmokingCigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health.Learn how to stop smoking with our infographic.

These measures have one unique thing in common: any person can make these changes, the steps are not expensive to take and even modest improvements to your health will make a big difference. Start with one or two. This simple, seven step list has been developed to deliver on the hope we all have--to live a long, productive healthy life.

Stay Connected
Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.